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The Game Club

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Chapter 2

Aaaaaah! I yawn, stretch and sit up. My eyes are still weighed down by sleep and my bones feel like they've been glued together for a long time. I glance at all the sleeping bodies, littered around the tiny space we called a room. I sigh tiredly. When I was first told that I going to live with my aunty in Obalende, I was overjoyed. I was just coming to Lagos for the first time ( I was born and bred in Edo State ), and I had amazing dreams about Obalende ( You can't blame me. The name sounded fancy ).
I was so anxious, I couldn't sleep the night before. I was awake at 3:00 in the morning. Eko* ( Lagos ) had already woken up, you could hear the faint telltale signs of hustle in the early morning. I rushed through my preparations and chores. And by 5:00, I was ready. The rest of the family woke up, and my mother laughed when she saw me ready so early. You see, my aunty was to come in the afternoon. But I didn't care, I was that giddy.
The Sun was already actively making everywhere very warm, when my aunt finally showed up. I had already almost given up all hope of going. I remember vividly gushing over the way my aunt Patricia dressed. A true Lagos babe, she almost looked like those campus girls* in Nollywood movies ( The complete look, down to the colours to match - Green and brown ). My family said a short prayer, and we set out.
A typical Lagos bus park was like a small community of it's own. It was not like anything I had ever seen. When you breathed in, your nose is introduced to so many different smells at once. That variety of smells is the smell of Lagos. It was like a never ending stream of busy people coming and going. The noise was so loud, you heard it in your head and in your heartbeats ( An initiation into the land of Eko ). The journey itself was very rough. We kept jumping from one "Danfo"* to another, Lagos was just a circle of bus stops. The drivers and their conductors were loud and seemed like they were always looking for an opportunity to insult people. If there was anywhere you could properly learn Yoruba, it was here, among these "Agberos"* ( Streets touts ). But you will probably only know the bad words. The last Danfo we boarded, from Ojuelegba to Obalende was the worst. The driver was drunk and his conductor was rude. The music in the bus ( loud, popular and Yoruba ) was meant to deafen the passengers, I'm sure of it. It felt like the bus was flying, and the driver was going with it. Whenever we hit a pot hole ( quite popular in these areas ), the bus pushed forward violently like a street tout prepping for a fight.
I was glad when we got off, and still in high spirits. The first thing that struck me as odd upon our arrival, was the way the building stood. It stood awkwardly like a drunken old man, who needed only a slight push to tip over and collapse. It wasn't even painted, it looked like the builder was in a hurry to excrete while building the house. The compound was congested and there were so many little kids, it looked like an orphanage. My high spirits took a downward spiral. My aunt ushered me into a small, pink room with sparse furniture ( Just two small foams ).
"Ivie, welcome oh. Make yourself at home. This is where I'm hiding my head oh", She said, dropping herself on the bed. "My roommates will soon be back". If my shock wasn't enough at that point, I would get another milder one. Aunt Patricia's roommates.
Her roommates were the living evidence of the kind of life Nigerian youths were sentenced to live on a daily basis, by a society that didn't care, but expected so much. Dudu ( real name - Dupe ) was an auxiliary nurse at a nearby small clinic. She held an impressive school leaving certificate but having no money to further, decided to work and save up money for it. She was a devout Christian, and was always praying. Her dressing showed it. When I first met her, she was single. But these days, she has a Christian brother she is "considering" ( In her words ). Almost everyday, she brings back gory stories from the clinic ( I think it's meant to lead us back to God, in other to escape such situations ). She never openly preached or chastised anyone though. And even if she did, it wouldn't have worked on Kemz. Ekemini ( Kemz for short ) worked at a nearby 1 star hotel and always had lots of guys hanging around her. She always insisted that she wasn't a runs babe, that she just had generous male friends ( Lips sealed ). But she was a really kind person, open-hearted in every way. She is also an entrepreneur, ordering goods and selling online. She was the best dressed among all of us, and was prettier too. She has a child in her village - the reason she was hustling so hard. I really admire her spirit. Oge was there because of my aunt, who knew Kemz who owned the room. Oge worked with my aunt at a supermarket ( University Graduates Oh ). Oge was the loudest among us ( a big gossip, always with the most hilarious stories ), and she could also really cook. We call her Madam Cook. In their different ways, these girls have become my family and I have learnt so much from them altogether.
Just then, someone moves and kicks me in my stomach. Aunt Oge always fighting in her sleep. But that wakes me up fully. I get up, and blink in the near darkness. The only functioning torch light in the room, was almost totally useless. There was usually electric light at this time, but for some reason, the distribution company decided to pass up today. I tiptoe to Aunt Kemz side, and check the time on her cracked iPhone 6. 4:15 am. Ehen??? I'm late ooo. I start rushing through my school preparation, knocking over things in my haste. I had to wake up at 4 in the morning, if I was to beat the notorious Lagos traffic and get to school on time.
"Ooh. Ivie can't you be more quiet about it. Not everyone has to wake up as early as you, you know". I stiffen and turn back slowly.
"I'm sorry, aunt Kemz", I say quietly. But she has already dropped off to sleep. I continue my preparations fast, but quietly. Then, I pick up my school bag and steal out. I don't eat morning food, as there is usually nothing to eat. So, Aunt Pat gives me some money for school the day before, as she doesn't want me disturbing her in the early morning.
The early morning moon is still taking his time going back to his home, and I don't think the sun is ready to come out yet. I hurry in the cold early morning air, and I am able to catch Papa Jide, still at home. He is warming up his car. He always took special care of his old Volvo ( that car had evidently been through thick and thin with him ).
"Ututu oma Sir", I greet genuflecting slightly. ( Ututu oma is Igbo for Good morning, he had taught me ).
"Ehen my dear. Kedu?", he replied, turning to me and smiling. ( Kedu? means how are you?, basically ).
"Sir, I'm fine oh. How was your night na?", I ask back, beaming widely at the elderly man.
"Oh my dear. My night too go sweet. I be even dey wait you sef. I dey come, you hear. Make I go change my cloth", he replied, turning hastily and going into his house. I turn and rest on the car to wait for him.
Papa Jide, the kind old soul, always dropped me off at school on his way to his morning job. He worked the morning shift as a cleaner in a really big 5 star hotel in Victoria island, Lagos. When he gets off his shift, he is a taxi driver shuttling Lagos island and Victoria island. When he saw me going to school early in the morning on my first day, he offered a lift ( and it became a habit for us ). He said he admired my uniform and how I was eager to learn, and the fact that I was on a scholarship ( I know, that's pretty impressive ). And he always told me the most amazing stories of how he first came to Lagos ( Vintage Stuff ).
"Ah, babe. Wats up na. You don dey go school?".
I turn, surprised. But it's just Jide.
"Jide, Morning oh. As you can see, I dey wait for your Papa", I reply, adapting an "I don't care" tone.
"Ok oh. E dey come", he replies, opening the car to take something. Okay. I confess, I once had a small, tiny crush on Jide. That was when I had just come though. Jide is really handsome, I mean that, more than all the other guys at school ( I hardly call guys handsome ). He is older too, but he doesn't go to school. He had dropped out after JSS 3, a year before I came to Obalende. He said school wasn't his thing, and he was learning carpentry in Marina. He was very calm and thoughtful for a street boy who wasn't very educated. And he has actually asked me out before, Me! I declined, because I'm still in school. But I still think about it. Just then, Papa Jide comes out.
"Take am easy for school oh. And this your uniform too go fit you oh. Later na", Jide says, smiling. Then he winks at me, and pats me on the shoulder as he passes. Butterflies are jumping up and down in my stomach, my heart is unsettled. He has that effect on me, I swear ( Ok. Maybe I still have a huge crush on him ). I get in the car with his father, he waves and I wave back ( Mine, a tiny, wistful thing ).
All through the ride to school, I'm thinking about him. I rarely notice the road, the hustle and bustle of Eko, the contrast between Lagos island and Victoria island; the Low living vs the affluent. I don't notice any of them. I'm thinking about Jide. What does he see in me? I don't kid myself that I am beautiful or attractive in any way. I'm not. I'm just a normal Nigerian teenager. I don't have any distinguishing mark, apart from the large birth mark on top of my lips and my gap tooth. I look at myself in the car side mirror. A small, dark, nothing special face stares back at me. I even have Pimples all over my face, at odd spots. I'm have growing fat, although I'm kind of curvy. But Jide, handsome Jide, could have any girl. Why me?
Just as I'm thinking about a man, We get to my school. Papa Jide always insists on riding up to my school gate. I get down and thank him very well ( What would I have done without that man? ). I enter the school compound, and facing me is one of the most impressive schools in Lagos State. The Harold S. Gray Classical School. Yes. I'm on scholarship at one of the biggest schools in Lagos State, and in Nigeria. I smile contentedly, E no easy. Do you know what it takes to get a scholarship into this kind of Elite school? My dad's boss wife actually had to put in a word for me, since her daughter went to the school ( My dad was a driver from them ). Just then, a waft of expensive female perfume passes me. My benefactress's daughter and her best friend; Georgina Ekwe-Briggs. They were the glamour girls of the school, but they were nice people. Georgina, the daughter of a high brow lawyer, was a people's person ( would make a good female president ). Her friend, Asabe was the perfect heroine's sidekick, always by Gina's side, silently supporting. Not like that Proud Marilyn I just passed. Marilyn's family was a high aristocratic Lagosian family, and she saw it as an excuse to treat people anyhow. I just think she has a bad case of inferiority complex though.
Entering the school hallway, I see more of them. Aristocratic Kids. Big Men children. White men children. Each of them probably thinking that the world was made specially for them, to toy with. Like that Olakunle Hernandez. He was Lagos Royalty. And was the only guy I have seen in Real life close to Jide in handsomeness, really. He was not only good looking, he was a talented basketballer and a very intelligent boy. His only problem was he, apparently thought, all girls were created for his pleasure. And girls don't even make it hard for him, hanging off his every word. It sometimes makes me think of Jide. If he was this rich, he probably won't even notice me. He stops to talk to Georgina, his actual girlfriend. And I wonder what that nice girl sees in him, seriously. I think the good girls are attracted to the bad boys, because they satisfy their ( the good girls ) thirst for badness. Just a theory of mine. Still, I pity the good girls falling over guys like Olakunle Hernandez, girls like Rosie.
I sight her, just as I'm thinking about her. One of the few people I can call friend in this school ( they are just two ). She is a sweet softie. Always Optimistic, seeing the world as a huge happy movie. Whenever I try to be realistic, she shuts me down as being negative.
"Ivy!! Babe, Wats gud? You are looking nice. How was your holiday? Seriously, I didn't hear a word from you. I missed you. Seriously, babe. We have to catch up", she says, all in one breath. Then she envelopes me in a huge hug. She was always over nice to me, I think it's because she pities me. I don't mind though, I got here through someone's pity. I see Elvira, my second school friend, coming fast. Speed looks funny on her because of her extra fat. I envy her though, her beauty. She had the most beautiful eyes, the nicest black complexion, and for all that, the nicest curves ( Ah! Calabar girls and their curves sef... ). Puberty suited her. If I looked like her, I'm sure I would fit Jide ( Not that I hate my looks, it's just... She looks better ).
I pull back from Rosie's mother hug.
"My holiday was just there really...", I begin as Elvira catches up. "I didn't really do much...", I continue, before realizing that Elvira was saying something.
"Who? Are you talking to me?", I ask quickly.
"No, no... Just thinking out loud, you know. So, how was your holiday na? Didn't hear from you..." , she says, smiling. Dear Elvira was always in her thoughts, I wonder what went on there?
"I don't have a phone. My holiday was just there. Nothing interesting. I'm sure it wasn't nearly as good as your holiday", I reply, suddenly conscious of the fact that I really wasn't as rich as these girls, with their big phones that they used to keep in touch.
"No... I'm sure everybody's holiday was fine in their own way. Even yours, ivy", Elvira says, also adapting the pity tone. Oh! All these rich kids.
"Anyway, I'm excited for the new school year. We are seniors!!!", Rosie squeals in delight. Yep, that's right. We are seniors. I, Ivie was a senior at the Harold S. Gray Classical School, Lagos. I look at my friends. Just two years left of this fairytale experience. After that, who knows what will happen next? But for now, I will totally enjoy being here. I intend to, so help me God. I smile.
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