The sun had since gone down, but various corners of the campus still bustled with activity. As midnight approached, Monica left the main sports field and hurried back to Noble Hall. It was long past curfew for all residents of the hostel and the gates were already locked, but Monica’s rapport with the security men proved invaluable that night. She snuck some currency notes into the hands of one of the night guards who, after inspecting the cash carefully, opened the side gate and let her through without a word. Feeling relieved, she made her way to her room. Her roommates were fast asleep. She ought to be sleeping as well for it was a school night and tomorrow was another hectic day. But for some reason, she had been delayed at the sports field. It was one of Adenizen’s most infamous spots which, on nights like this, drew many students to itself like a magnet.
Monica had not been to the fields alone. She had a companion with her and together, they had lost track of the time. What transpired between the two of them that night was more than what this young lady had bargained for. Now safely in her room, she took a quick shower; ignorant of the fact that she had just made a baby. Everything happened within the twinkling of an eye. She had not known the moment when the rites of conception were completed and a new life was formed within her womb. When she did realize it, she would be anything but thrilled. But for now, still oblivious that the night would be a turning point in her life, the young student of Adenizen changed into her night gown and slipped into bed. Before long, she too was fast asleep. The following morning, she would blend in with her peers as they went about their busy schedules. Though she was, as yet, unaware of what had just happened inside her, henceforth for Monica, things would never be the same again.
On the sixth floor of the high rise Senate building, Prof Adele gazed down at the wide expanse of land that formed the school’s campus. From her vantage point where her office was situated, she had an eagle-eye view of the buzz of activities that went on down there. Her gaze shifted steadily back and forth even though she was not sure what exactly she was looking out for. The landscape below resembled a large race track. Even in broad day light, the students seemed like little ants as they moved around with much gusto. Drawing confidence from their numbers, they could be seen walking about in groups of twos, threes and sometimes as many six. Every one of them was engaged in the pursuit of success - or at least their ideals of it. Though they made rivals of themselves as they spent their days in subtle competition against one another, very few were aware that a common contender lay within, as each one strove to find the discipline to keep up with the demands of this learning institution.
Prof Adele had always thought she knew Adenizen like the back of her hand. It was a campus run by cliques - the bubblers, the bookworms and the bystanders - all of whom made up the greater student body. She liked the bookworms best. They were, after all, the brains of Adenizen and their intellectual prowess kept the school on the national map every year. But it was the bubblers who really intrigued her. They ruled Adenizen’s social terrain and had the bystanders, who were content to take life as it came, at their beck and call. Given the school’s rigorous climate, it was imperative that every new entrant joined a clique as quickly as possible. Each one’s clique was his or her identity and in Adenizen, no one wanted to walk alone.
Prof Adele sighed as she observed the campus dynamics with mixed feelings. Indeed, she always thought she had seen it all - that is, until Monica.
The administrative team had completed the somber task of striking Monica’s name off their records. The young lady’s files, her identification card and everything else that registered her affiliation with the school had been bound tightly together in rolls of old newspaper and shoved into the basement, never to be used again. The whole school was still reeling from the loss, especially the girls at Noble Hall. Monica’s course mates, aspiring lawyers like she had once been, would miss her terribly. But life had to go on. Her heart heavy, Prof Adele groaned within her as she marked off yet another fallen student. Monica’s case was the first occurrence that year, but that was already one too many. It was a painful loss, but more painful was Prof Adele’s inability to unravel the circumstances that surrounded that night.
Monica’s roommates and close friends claimed ignorance. All they knew was that Monica had returned to her room at Noble Hall one evening, weak and pale. The lights were out and the girls were already in their beds. She complained of severe pains and wanted to lie down. Four times within the hour, she got up to change her pads. They assumed she was having a heavy period. They equally concluded that her muffled cries of pain were caused by the associated dysmenorrhea. It was not until she began vomiting and crying out to no one in particular, that her roommates became concerned enough to raise an alarm. Clueless as to what was causing Monica’s strange behavior, they sprang out of their bunks and went in search of the hall warden, who organized to have the young girl rushed to the hospital. Later in the night, Monica showed slight signs of improvement. But it did not last. By the next day her condition deteriorated and she slipped into a coma. She did not make it to the end of the week. The tests revealed a botched abortion.
Trying to get any further information out of her close friends was like attempting to squeeze water out of a rock. They claimed not to even know that Monica had been pregnant. A veteran in the School of Law, Prof Adele had not earned the nickname ‘Contender’, for nothing. It was a title that had stuck with her for years. She could put forward a good case before many of her contemporaries and win. Very few had been able to stand up to her in simulated court sessions. But for all her years of debating legal matters, Prof Adele had never felt as helpless as she did among this sea of sealed lips. She appealed to the girls’ emotions and when that did not work, she issued stern warnings; all to no avail. Their conspiracy of silence was unbreakable. Eventually, she was forced to dismiss the girls and later lamented bitterly to the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Magnus that she must be growing old.
Turning away from the window, Prof. Adele sighed again. Indeed, she had been so sure that she had seen it all. But the issues relating to this young girl’s death showed there was more to Adenizen than she had always thought. Very soon, Prof. Adele would leave this vibrant campus for good. Having served there selflessly for over thirty years, it was time to retire. No doubt, her departure would be Adenizen’s loss. Yet this recent incident threatened to mar her otherwise graceful exit and make a mockery of her years of devotion. Monica’s family wanted answers and right now, the school authorities had none to give them. Trying to ascertain what had gone wrong was like confronting a faceless opponent.
With just a few months to go and plans already being put in place to send her off, one could say Prof Adele was already one foot out of Adenizen’s door. She could conveniently sweep this latest development under the carpet and leave quietly, knowing that with time, a fresh wind of events would blow the matter over. But she was never one to choose convenience as an easy route out of a dilemma. Biting her lip pensively, she promised herself that this would be the last obligation to this campus which she would fulfill, before she could truly say she was done here - even if it meant shifting the date of her departure forward. Yet without a doubt, she knew it would be a lonely trail trying to find out why Monica had toyed with her life this way - as well as the life of her unborn child.