"Perfumes and body sprays are not allowed o. Ma, can you help her take them back." A short, wicked-looking woman yelled whilst still rummaging through Florence's bag.
Florence and her mother looked at each other, mouth wide open. Is this woman insinuating that ordinary perfume was contraband? They had not recovered from the shock before another robust woman interrupted.
"Aunty Chioma, eh ehn eh, wait o, is that not sardine I can see in that place?" She shrieked.
Florence was dazed. This was her first day in KHS, apparently even the first day of resumption for all Junior secondary school one students like her. Apparently, the school had way more rules than she could ever imagine.
Perfumes, body sprays and even canned fish were considered contraband. The house mistresses were very unfriendly and kept scattering her luggage as they rummaged through, their eyes gleaming as they found more and more contraband items.
Florence knew she would be spared. After all, it was her first day here and the rules were not written in the school handbook. Nonetheless, she still disliked the three women sitting in front of her. There was a better way to talk rather than shouting.
"Oya, Oya, be fast na. Pack your things, other people are waiting!"The skinny woman whom was called Chioma said.
Florence was feeling irritated. She had taken so much time just arranging her luggage and they ruined it all. The fatigue from travelling a long distance was weighing down on her.
She zipped up her red colored box and head outside with her mother.
"My dear, don't be bothered okay. Is it not just perfume, you'll be fine ehn!" Mrs Shaw tried to console her intentionally neglecting the long list of items that were rejected.
"Mum!" Florence whined but soon after tiptoed and kissed her mum's cheek before turning and dragging her heavy box towards her hostel.
"Sweep that place very well o. Before you would be doing like chicken that fell inside water." Was the first thing Florence heard as she entered the hostel. She saw a short, very light skinned girl sweeping.
"You're the last person right. Florence?"
Florence looked up to see a girl sitting on the top bed on a bunk. She looked older and more mature. Her entire aura was screaming charismatic.
"Yes, I'm Florence Shaw." Florence found her voice quivering.
"I'm Lawal Oluwatobiloba, the senior in charge of your dormitory. I'm in SS2. You can call me Tobi." Tobi said with a wicked grin on her face.
"Nice to meet you, senior Tobi." Florence said whilst placing her box beside the only empty space in the room.
Tobi's wicked grin disappeared instantly and her face was filled with warmth.
"That's great. You arrived later than the rest. They are in the dining hall having their lunch. They all did one thing or the other in keeping this hostel clean. The remaining thing left is to clean the windows. I take it as you can do that?" Tobi said, tossing a yellow foam at Florence.
"Great, see you in a couple hours time." Tobi said and left the hostel in a hurry.
"God saved you." The yellow skinned girl sweeping the floor said, huffed and slid down the floor. She looked very tired.
"Me?" Florence said pointing at her chest.
"Mhm-mhm, the egbere behind you." The girl hissed and continued sweeping. She didn't look as gentle as she was when Tobi was in the hostel.
"Why?" Florence asked as she brought out her soap container and took her bucket.
"You called senior Tobi, senior." The girl replied rolling her eyes angrily.
"Huh?" Florence remained confused.
"Ah ahn, is it arindin that they gave me as roommate ni." The girl murmured but Florence heard it anyway, her blood boiling at being called an imbecile.
"When you called senior Tobi, you put senior in front of her name. Like you said Senior Tobi, not Tobi." The girl explained, her eyes wide open as if it would help Florence assimilate was she was saying.
"Okay." Florence drawled on, already bored with having such a conversation.
"See this sweep that I'm sweeping ehn! I've been sweeping for the past one hour. I've swept this room almost ten times. All because I called her by name." The girl hissed and peeked at the door to make sure that Tobi wasn't around.
"I'm Florence by the way." Florence said, trying to make a proper introduction.
"I heard when you told Senior Tobi. I'm not deaf." The girl hissed and continued sweeping.
Florence rolled her eyes angrily. Deciding to ignore the already angered girl, she went straight to the bathroom then get water for cleaning the windows.
As she was about to enter the bathroom, she heard a loud yet cute laughter. It seemed to come from the girl in the room. Florence shook her head, wondering if the girl was mentally stable.
She opened the tap and kept her bucket underneath. The water came out a bit only to start dropping in droplets and finally stop working. Florence gasped.
Was this the famous lack of water supply she had heard of in hostels?!
Feeling frustrated, she went back to the room only to meet the girl laughing harder. She soon found out she was the one being laughed at.
"You think you would find water here?" The girl said whilst laughing.
"Where would I get water?" Florence asked.
"You're asking me. Do I look like the owner of the hostel? That was a good joke by the way, my name is Teniola." Teniola said looking amused as she kept the broom and dustpan in a corner.
"See ehn, because I'm a nice person, I'll follow you to the house mistresses. They should know where we would get water. Senior Tobi said water would be available by nighttime so don't fret, okay."Teniola said with a big smile.
Florence found herself staring. The light skinned girl looked very beautiful when she smiled. Her dimples and pink lips seeming to make her shine like a star.
Left with no choice, they went down to meet the house mistresses.
"Good evening ma, there is no water in the hostel and I need water to clean the windows." Florence said as she entered a room where she was directed to by some seniors. Teniola stood outside, refusing to go in with her.
"Oh, you can get water from the green tank over there." Aunty Chioma replied her, pointing outside the room. Florence thanked her and went along with Teniola to get the water. After fetching the water, they still had to walk up the long stairs till they reached the top floor.
Florence was already panting though Teniola seemed okay as she did not carry anything at all. Yet, she didn't spare any moment to taunt the former.
"Ordinary small bucket of water, you're looking like you want to die..." She slapped her hands together and stood in akimbo.
"...all these ajebota people sef. Nawa oh!"
Florence ignored her, hissing as she carried the bucket of water into her hostel.
The hostel was not as silent as they left it as the remaining three girls had come back from the dining hall. The atmosphere has successfully balanced into three modes.
A girl was sitting on her bed all quiet and looking awkward. The two other girls were chattering away as if they had known each other for months.
Teniola screamed and jumped onto the bed in which the two other girls were. Soon enough, they were all chattering away again after exchanging quick greetings.
Florence marvelled at the way Teniola was quick to blend in. She could never have been able to do that.
Solemnly, she grabbed her bucket and resumed cleaning. Soon after, she was done with everything and started to unpack ignoring the trio that were still lost in their own talks.
"Keep quiet!" A loud voice yelled, startling everyone.
Sardine- a common word used in place of canned fish.
Egbere- In Yoruba mythology, Egbere is a malevolent spirit that inhabits woods and is seen at night.
It is said to be short, owns a (small) mat, and cries all the time. Also that whoever took the mat of wealth from him will be rich beyond imagination.
Ajebota- (pronounced ah-jay-butta) is someone who lives a privileged, pampered life.