Hello people, HELL ALL OVER is a story by Tope Lizbeth Adeagbo. I have her permission to post it on here. I have broken it into three parts, the first of which is served today.
BEST MAN DUTY returns tomorrow.
Please enjoy today’s serving and use the comment box to tell us how you feel.
Gringgggggggggggggggggggg, Gringgggggggggggggggggggggg, the sound of the bell went. Innocenta checked the alarm clock perched on the desk by her bed; she gave a loud ‘hrrummp’ as if she was tired even before the day had begun. How she hated the sound of waking bells. At times while she slept, all she would dream of was concocting excuses as not to wake up pre-dawn. To her, it was sheer wickedness on the part of the school management to wake them on the dot of five every day.
Although she was meant have gotten used to it having spent five years in the school but grrrrr…
She turned and stretched like a kitten dying of boredom. She squeezed her face as she performed her morning routine exercise before she joined the other students outside for morning devotion and sports.
After thirty minutes of the usual everyday drill, most of the other students had come alive. They responded to everything with zeal, eagerness and strength; something only teenagers could summon so quickly. However, as much as Innocenta tried she could not connect with the activities around her, she felt so far away. She felt so drained and tired that despite the yoga and all sorts they were doing, her shoulders were slumped like an atlas carrying the world weight.
By ten in the morning, she had developed a very nasty headache that would not just go despite pouring water on her closely cropped hair. Most of her teachers noticed her lackluster attitude. Something she had developed two weeks ago when she returned to school after taking permission to attend her mother’s disaster wedding. Some of them tried talking to her as to fathom how it had affected her. However, it seemed the sweet, shy girl they knew had burrowed deeply in her shell.
They had all heard tales about the dramatic wedding despite all the family had done to prevent media presence at the event. Gossip magazines had a field day exploiting the situation to the fullest without consideration for the feelings of those concerned. The teachers pitied the poor girl who was unwilling to share her troubles with anyone.
Days after she returned to school, the school counselor had invited Innocenta for a chat after picking interest in her reclusive state. It seemed the more they all tried to reach to her, the deeper she burrowed. The school management was in a dilemma, it would be inconsiderate if they involved her mother by informing her of her daughter’s strange behaviour when she was going through a lot herself. The poor lady had just been publicly humiliated at her own society wedding. It seemed all they could do was to keep an eye on Innocenta without seeming to do so.
Mrs. Lewis, the school counselor was not too shocked with the girl’s reaction to the happenings in her family. “Who wouldn’t be affected?”, she thought to herself.
The incident became an issue discussed and analyzed on social media. Worse still, Inno had always been an introvert, though with a learning ability that had surpassed that of her peers. It took the school two years to let the flower inside her blossom. But looking at her that morning with her slumped shoulders, creased face and lack of gaiety and interest in things and those around her, the counselor had no choice than to call for another chat in her office.
When Innocenta was told to go to the Counselor’s office, the headache instantly multiplied and it was as if her skull would break from the pounding inside her head. Though she lacked the appetite to eat breakfast, once she slipped outside the classroom, she looked left and right to be sure no one was paying undue attention to her the way they had been doing since she came back. She opened her small purse, brought out a sachet of Paracetamol, removed two tablets from the foil and quickly swallowed it without using water or any liquid. It tasted bitter, very bitter but it was alright by her as she cared less about taste.
When she was about getting to the Counselor’s office, she started dragging her feet, wishing the distance could grow longer. As she was about opening the door, the door was opened from inside, and Mrs. Lewis smelling as lovely as ever and smiling her million watts smile that had endeared her to the students over the years and made them confide secrets to her, was holding a delicious smelling steaming cup of beverage in her hand. On the table in front of Innocenta was a plate with slices of heavily buttered bread and two boiled eggs but before she could react, the woman gathered her close, pulled her to a comfortable chair and looking pleadingly asked the girl to please share her breakfast with her.
The girl was perplexed, but decided to take it in stride, peradventure the woman who was tagged in the school as ‘the woman who knows all’ had discovered that she skipped breakfast or saw her taking those pills but whatever it was, it would not be to her advantage to refuse. So, sitting gingerly, she took the cup of beverage which the woman offered and slowly sipped from it, forcefully swallowing. It took more than sheer efforts on her part to swallow the bread that were like rocks in her throat but not to allow the woman initiate that she visit the school’s infirmary, something which she hated so much, she forced the unwanted meal down her throat.
While she ate, she looked up again and again, gazing at the woman, but Mrs. Lewis paid her little attention. She was just humming and munching her meal. This gave Inno considerable time to think about what she was sure the woman wanted to discuss with her: her mother’s catastrophic wedding and how it had or was still affecting her.
All her life, she had had to live with the shame and embarrassment kids unknowingly or intentionally heaped on her, especially when they flaunted things bought by their dads or asked annoying questions about her father and why he was not with them. Though a good girl, she had had to tell her peers countless lies over the years so as to stop them from harassing her. It was not uncommon for her to tell her friends her dad was based outside the country. Though this lie held for some years, but when the kids came back after hearing contrary things from their own parents who were at first also eaten up with curiosity about herself and her mum, she had to start telling them her dad was dead.
At other times, she would spin tales that would probably have earned her the recognition and reputation as the world’s best liar had Guinness Book of Records heard about them. To worsen things, she had stopped asking after her dad when she realized that her mother ended up in tears and was disconsolate for days on end afterwards. When this happened, her mother got very touchy and spanked her for slight misbehaviors, something absolutely unlike the loving woman her mother is.
Her step dad’s death gave her a cover as she could tell everyone her father was late until one of the smarter, more inquisitive kids queried “If he’s your dad then why are you not Innocenta Lawal?”
That day, she cried till nightfall though she did not tell her mother her reason for her unending tears.
Most people do not know how difficult being raised by a single mother is. Though she was very close to her mum and loved her wholeheartedly, she had to grow up much faster than her peers. She was the one who listened to whatever was bothering her mum and had to watch her mum’s struggles and trials without being able to do anything about it. There were countless nights she cried for her mum and her lonely life particularly because her mum rarely had female friends. Most of those friends tried to match make her and if she refused, avoided her because they were scared she was after their husbands. Neither could she have male friends as most of them were only interested in her money.
She remembered that time when she was barely seven and a neighbor had shouted on and embarrassed her mum. This was because the woman’s husband had been in their flat a couple of times. She was not even convinced by explanations that her man was just being nice and brotherly as he had known her mother from their days in the village. It was that pathetic!
She swallowed the bread she had been chewing, picked the egg and took little bites. The phone on the table suddenly rang; Mrs. Lewis picked it, listened for some seconds and in that soothing voice, excused herself. When the door closed, Inno heaved a sigh of relief. Maybe it was the warm cup of beverage she was holding that had soothed her frayed nerves, as she read somewhere. She also realized her headache had reduced considerably, however she continued with her train of riotous thoughts.
Being in an exclusive girls’ school slightly helped but that didn’t stop her from feeling dejected with how hard her mother had to work. She compensated her mother by being obedient and extra smart. She as a matter of fact never went below the third position since she started school. When on one of the visiting days Inno’s mother informed her of the intention to get married, she felt trepidation and had double feelings though she tried to be excited for her mom.
She tried being excited as it meant her dream of having a father figure in her life was going to come true. After all, her peers had made growing without a father seem like life’s biggest loss. Her friend, Juliet however threw her into the fear of the unknown when she shared the story of her elder sister’s rape by her step dad. She was no longer a kid, but deep down was that hydra-headed fear of all those horrible things she had heard about step parents, either dad or mum.
At times she wished her mum would stop bothering about getting married. It embarrassed her that though she was in senior class, her mum was getting married in an elaborate wedding ceremony. Kayode, her soon-to-be stepfather was no stranger to her; the fear of uncharted waters was the major cause of her anxiety.