Usually, Rashida is tough and smart, and it’s hard for her to get lied to. However, this day was different. The big dreams she had, controlled her like nothing else; she would do anything for her children’s education.
“Well that’s a yes from me,” she said as she stared at Mrs. Tallstar. With all the excitement in the situation, Mrs. Tallstar had a different opinion. She was very beautiful and had dark charcoal-like hair, plump lips, and a big gap between her teeth. She would always say “I love it that I have a diastema, it makes me feel special”..
Mrs. Tallstar gave a few special winks to Rashida, though Rashida ignored them over the excitement. Subirah and Raya have always wanted to go to proper school too, but their mother couldn’t afford it.
“And, where is this big school at?” Mrs. Tallstar finally manages to ask. Honestly, it makes zero sense for a women to randomly pop out of no where and offer to take them to school for free, and ignore his excitement to take the girls with him.
“Well, don’t you worry madam, it’s in the city, a neighboring city” said the random man, playing with his cap. First of all, he didn’t even look like someone important, he looked as if he couldn’t afford his own meal, then how can he afford to pay someone else’s school tuition. That’s exactly what Rashida never understood, she thought she shouldn’t judge by the look of people.
“Listen, Rashida,” Safina whispered . “We’re just going to talk over it, we’ll let you know what we’ve decided tomorrow.” She said aloud to the man.
Rashida sighed. “ok, I guess we’re talking over it”. The two girls looked at one another, it was all too exciting, was this all happening to them for real, or were they in a dream? Rashida opened the door to her house, just when the man called after her.
“Excuse me mam, you have only ten minutes to decide, max”. Safina ignored the call, and went in as fast as she could. “Listen, I think you should ask more about this school, and how are they going to manage going to the city every morning, it’s too far!” she said. “and you saw that man, he doesn’t look one bit right to me, I think he is just lying”
Rashida gave another sigh. “Well, I think everything’s going to be all right, plus its our only chance, the poor girls have to get proper education, so they don’t turn out like their mom, who can’t even read the newspaper, just let them go, what could go wrong?”
Soon, the girls were saying their goodbyes to Rashida and Safina. At first, Rashida was excited. After a few stairs Safina has been giving her, She really wasn’t sure about why Safina is so worried, and not sure about what she’s doing either.
“Well, won’t they need anything?” Safina Tallstar asked. The man had an old looking backpack on his back. “and what’s that backpack for, are you going to study with them or something?”
“No, it just has water and some food, the city is a bit far, I get hungry at times” The man said turning around to leave.
“Bye mom” Subirah and Raya said at the same time, walking and waving at their mom and neighbor.
“Listen, I’m sorry I made you nervous, I guess it’s OK for the girls to study, at least learn something” Safina apologies.
Meanwhile the girls walked and walked, they had nothing with them, not even food or water.
Approximately an hour and a half later they were there. “Well, is this the city?” asked Raya. “well, it must be” said Subirah.
“Is this the school, it looks too old style, even our house looks better, but perhaps they have good studies”.
The girls could hear their hearts beating. It was a strange place, but there were no kids at all. Only old lady’s walking by. One of them sops and greets them. “Hey girls, So happy you..” but before she could finish the sentence, the man had a word with her, they were whispering and after every two words, the women would stare at the girls and grin.
“Ok, so you girls are here to get education” She says trying to put on a smile. “Ok, you can go now, John” she told the man.
The girls felt the butterflys fluttering their wings in their stomachs. The lady led the way and took them to a dirty and old-looking room, with a sign on it that said, storage.
“My name is Ms. Jennifer, but all the kids call me Ms. J” She said. “Now, both of you pick out a uniform and get changed”.
“Which one should I take mam?” asks Subirah. “Take one quick and get changed, I don’t have time for silly orph.. I mean student questions, and don’t call me mam”.
“Just grab one” whispered Subirah. “But I have to look for my size” said Raya. “Hurry up!” they heard Ms. j yell.
The girls picked their uniforms, which were sky-blue dresses, pinafore-like, and a short sleeve checkered shirt inside.
The uniform didn’t even have a logo on it, but it looked OK, at least not as bad as the storage room.
Uniforms were in big piles on the dirty cement ground, and more than fifteen flies were in there! hovering around the uniforms. There were metal shelves that were absolutely useless, they had nothing on them, but dirty socks and boots.
“Grab some boots silly, your not wearing flip-flops today, take those off!” she yelled again, tapping her toe and looking away.
The girls were confused, the boots looked really big, but decided to take them anyway before they hear another yell.
The girls are finally out of the store and Raya’s tummy starts grumbling. “I’m hungry” she mouths to Subirah, and Subirah feels absolutely the same but doesn’t know what to do.
They climb p the staircase and are put in a room, full of older kids, 12. So Subirah is assigned an empty bed, while Raya is taken to the little kids room.
All the kids stare at Subirah as she walks in, holding her uniform in one hand, her boots in another.
“Hello” a girl mouths to Subirah. “Hi” she mouths back. “I’m hungry” She finally says. “Well, I’m sorry, we already had dinner, and no student is given dinner twice here.
A few minutes later, Ms. J comes in and gives the room some weird stares. Subirah had already changed into her uniform, and was getting comfortable in her bed.
Finally, the lights are switched off, and the footsteps of the Ms. J could be heard fading away, and Bang! the door was slammed. ‘She’s gone!’ hisses Subirah , and an acceptable amount of shushing followed her words.
No one would ever sleep before midnight, but they at least tried faking it , you don’t want to know what would happen if Ms. J found out they were not asleep as soon as the lights were off.
The footsteps of Mom, were fading away, and Bang! the door was slammed. ‘She’s gone!’ hisses Subgraph’s young sister, and an acceptable amount of shushing followed her words.
Two minutes later, a few kids were on their suitcases, trying to get some sleep, with jackets as their bedsheets. The room smelt of sour and sweet rotten garbage, and no noise could be heard other than the old fan’s spinning noises.
′ Hey! I can’t sleep!′ Whispered Raya. ′ you’ll be alright, just close your eyes’ whispers back the girl laying in the bed next to her . ′ Remember, we are here to get education, it’s like a boarding school, we get food and learn so we can work when we are older, and we can get money to buy a big farm and lots and lots of cows for baba’ Raya talks to herself.
The other kids were all quiet, they barely talked. In the middle of the night, a crunching sound could be heard, but it was only Sammy doing his daily midnight feast thingy, Subirah wondered where the chocolates were from, she was hungry .
‘Hey, where are those from?’ she asks. No reply came, but a cloud of shushing. ‘weird!’ she thought.
It was morning after the long night that seemed like 48 hours. The Hall was empty by quarter to eight. ‘Hey, new girl’ Someone called after Subirah. ‘Come here, follow me’.
It was exciting, getting breakfast on the first day of boarding school. ‘So, do you get to have all the food you want, like fish!’ Subirah asked.
‘well, not exactly, but a least we eat something’ said Another girl. ‘So, what’s your name?’ she asks.
‘Subirah, is my name and what’s yours?’
‘Muthla, nice to meet you, now lets hurry up before breakfast time is over’
‘So, why are you here? what’s your story, did your parents die after a car accident or something, mine died two years ago, in a car accident and I don’t have anyone to take care of me, except my aunt, but she lives all the was in America, so I never see her’ says Muthla.
‘Oh, my mom is still alive it’s only my father whose dead, he died of ..of a disease that I can’t pronounce the name of, but he died when I was six, so I don’t really remember him, but anyway, you are at least studying, you might end up being a doctor or something when you grow up, which is really good for you, my mom told me you get a lot of money for being a doctor’ said Subirah.
‘Oh, then why are you here? If your mom is still around?’ asks Muthla as they both hurry down the stairs. ‘You two are late, so here, you will wash the bowl of porridge, and hurry up ! don’t stand there starring at me like I’m from planet mars or mercury, sit down and eat’ scolded the big lady, waving her big spoon.
Muthla and Subirah sat down at a table next to some little girls. They ate with no manners, they had porridge all around they moth, and some have it even on their nose!
‘Adaliya.. come sit here’ shouted Subirah, waving both her hands up high, and a little girl joined them, Subirah’s sister.
‘I don’t like this porridge’ says Raya as she puts the first spoon in her mouth. ‘Oh, just eat it up, don’t mind the tase, just eat to fill yourself up, there is no other food’ says Muthla.
‘Well, I too didn’t like it’ commented Subirah. Don’t they have anything like spinach or beef or chicken or even fish’
‘No, we have porridge in the mornings and salad in the afternoon, if Auntie is angry with any of us, or If she’s being extra nice, we have some tapioca, but that rarly happens’ said Muthla.
‘Yes, and why are you here if your mother is still alive?’
‘Well, I’m here to study, just like all the other kids’
‘We are not here to study I’m sorry to say, but were here as orphans, our parent are dead, or can’t take care of us, to here to stuady!’
‘Well, I’m here to study.’ Subirah said getting up. ‘And this porridge is not that bad after all, it’s just diffarent’
‘Where are you going? you know you can’t get more right?’
Subirah goes anyway, to the fat lady, and she politly asks for more. ‘What is that you are saying?’ asks the lady.
‘Can I have more porridge please’
‘No, ofcoarse not, what sort of question is that, now go back to your seat and wait for everyone else to finish, and hurry up you lot, we haven’t got all day’ she shouts.
The dining hall was suddenly quiet, they hurried up and washed they’re plates, then Muthla took Subirah with her to wash the big bowl of porridge.
‘Oh, look, there are worms in here ew’ says subirah digusted.
‘Well of coarse there are, it’s an orphanage what do you expect, food served to you on a golden plate?’
‘And when is the holiday going to be?’ asks Subirah.
‘Well, never unless you looked extra appealing to any of the oster family’s that visit us on monday’s it’s never, not until your an adult, 18 years old’
They washed they’re plates and headed back upstair to tidyup their room, then went down to the 3 by 3 room, and were all squashed togeather, it was a studyroom.
‘Good morning class, let me take the attendance’ started Mr. Will, he was a very tall and skinny teacher, and had a pen behind his ear.
‘Omar, Jimmy, Sammy, Muthla..’ he called. And students would say present. Until the name of Subirah is called. She says: present!. But Mr. Will takes off his silly rectangular-looking glasses, and stares at Subirah.
“So, you’re Subirah?” He asks after a few seconds of awkward silence.
“Yes, I’m new here,” she says.
“OK, nice to meet you then,” he says putting his glasses back on. The class began, and the students were all paying attention. Every student wanted to listen, allowing no word to go past them. If they didn’t understand, they would ask, and Mr. Will was a fun teacher anyway.
Subirah had a major problem. She firstly didn’t understand math, nor science. Even French was hard for her, only the Swahili class was easygoing.
Luckily, MR. Will taught all those subjects with one break after the science class. Subirah felt lost in a sea of words and numbers, she wondered how her little sister was doing.
“two plus two is?” asks Mr. WIll. Only Subirah can’t add. So she stays in her chair staring at him. “You’re supposed to get up” whisperes Muthla. “Ok Subirah come here on the blackboard, and tell me, how do you solve this sum” he said.
“Easy peasy” said Omar, and evryone laughed. Now, it was irritating, she was there nar th whitboard and didn’t even know how to write numberes proparly. And that’s exactly when Omar, decided to give her a clue, he put up four finders on his hand, and mouthed ” here”.
Finally, Subirah thought, she drew a hand with four fingers and thought it was the answer, it wasn’t, and ofcoarse unnessisary laughing followed the little joke.
School was over for the day, and now everyone was to go do their chore. “You’re lucky you don’t have one” says one of the girls sweeping the floor.
Everyone gets on with their chore except Subirah, who had no Idea what she sholud be doing.
Ms. J happens to pass by the girls in charge of cleaning up the library, and Subirah happens to be with them, she spots Subirah sitting on the librarian’s chair.
“Hey, new girl!” She yelled, Subirah jumped to her feet. “Your new but you have to work here, not just hang around!”
“She doesn’t have a chore Miss” Says Muthla.
“Can’t she ask me for one, and why are you talking instead of her, since when were you her Attorney؟”
“Now, go outside and fill some buckets with water, from the lake, and Not the Tap, then give them to the boys in the garden so they can water the plants” She ordered.
As Subirah walked out of the library to do her chore, MS. J added one more sentence. “And don’t dare scoop us some fish from the other lake, I clearly said it was gardening water so you better be careful,” She said.
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