Timothy was coming home from a gruelling day of school on a Wednesday evening. Though the sun was already setting, the heat caused him to perspire gallons. The day had been extra-busy because of the mid-term examinations which he had just concluded. To make matters worse, there was Maths who had kept asking him for answers which he wasn’t even sure of. “If I fail this question, you will see.” Maths had warned him. He was sure Maths was going to harass him because of that. He had checked the answer to that particular question after the exam to discover that he had gotten it wrong. “White-rice! You lied to me shey? So you think you are smart?” he could hear Matthew say already. He hated that nickname. He equally hated Matthew. Timothy was glad that there was not going to be school for the rest of the week. The mid-term break would commence from the next day. That was a blessing and a curse though. This was because being at home was also a great pain. Everyone practically ignored him except his father whose only conversation with him was regarding the senior certificate exam which was one year away and the course which he wanted Timothy to study when he started the university. The man always bombarded Timothy with questions regarding his future; it seemed like the only topic that connected father and son. Timothy didn’t want to think about that because he knew that his father expected him to follow up in the success of his brother. After all, his brother had set a high bar, but unfortunately, he couldn’t follow up. His father expected that if nothing else worked, then school had to. Most times, Timothy wished that his father would just ask him ‘how are you?’ once in awhile. He wanted his father to make an attempt to understand him, to know him, not just push him. But nobody made that attempt, nobody cared. Timothy sighed. He felt like the loneliest person on earth.
He had almost reached his doorstep and was instinctively removing the straps of his school bag from his shoulders when he heard a small voice say “Good evening.” He looked across the road and saw a girl who looked just about his age. She waved and crossed over to where he stood. Now closer, Timothy noticed her incredible beauty. She was like no girl he had ever seen before. Her eyes were large and the white of her eyes were as clear as a child’s’. Her hair was long and brown plaited in cornrows. She had a button of a nose and Rose-bud lips which she had painted red like tomatoes. Her skin was fair, almost golden as the sunset around them and her teeth; they were small and arranged with an open teeth in-between the middle incisors like a gate-way welcoming him. She was smiling at him. It was a strange sight indeed but it left him in shock for about two seconds.
“Hello!” she said still smiling.
“Hi” he replied lacking confidence.
“You live here?” she pointed to his house. Timothy nodded.
“I’m your new neighbour. I just moved in with my family.”
“Thanks. I noticed your uniform. I’m transferring to your school. I was there earlier but they told me that they just concluded the mid-term examinations. They are giving me the break to prepare for mine so I think I’ll start writing them on Monday.”
“Okay.” Timothy said. He was not a good conversationalist. It was harder to talk with her because she was so pretty.
“What is your name? I forgot to ask.”
“I’m Lucia. I’ll see you around, neighbour.” She said before giving him a sweet smile and then walking back across the street to her house.
Throughout that day, all Timothy could think about was the pretty girl with a pretty name. No one ever talked to him, no one smiled at him. That encounter was as though someone sprayed colour into his life in the form of a beautiful girl.
On Monday, he sat in class hoping to see Lucia again. He didn’t hear a word of what the Chemistry teacher taught. He heard laughter though. The teacher must have made a joke because the class was hysterical. But Timothy didn’t care. He only wanted one thing.
“Test results are going to be out by next week. From what I’ve seen so far, a lot of you didn’t study at all! But we will see. Good day class.”
The man left the classroom and it exploded into an uproar of noise. Timothy started to gather his books. This was the last period, school had just closed. He didn’t have any friends so there was no use hanging around. He couldn’t wait to go home. Maybe he would see Lucia today again.
As he stood to go, a hand landed on his shoulders, He immediately thought of Maths. He turned around slowly and to his surprise, his gaze met the heavenly face of Lucia.
“Lucia.” He said quietly. “You are in this class?”
“I guess I am. I’ve been trying to get you to notice me all day but it’s as if your mind was on something else.” She pouted “Isn’t this great? Now you are my neighbour and my classmate.” She giggled.
“That is great.” He said honestly.
“Which also means that we get to walk home together from school.”
Timothy noticed that his heart was beating faster. He was starting to sweat. This day felt like a dream and he didn’t want to wake up. “Let’s go home then.” Timothy said gladly.
The walk down to the school gate seemed endless. He just couldn’t believe it, and it seemed that the other students couldn’t either. They stared at the couple as they walked. It was as if the girl made him visible for the first time. Timothy was not exactly the kind of person who you would tag ‘ladies-man’, so walking with a girl who could easily be branded as the prettiest girl in school was a strange sight indeed. Finally, Timothy and Lucia reached the school gate and Timothy exhaled, the staring would finally stop. But what he saw outside the gate was not something that would cause relief but Maths and his gang. He held a plastic bottle conspicuously covered with a black polythene bag. It was obvious that whatever he was drinking contained a large amount of cheap alcohol. The smell of it emitted around them like a cloak.
To be continue…