“What is this? White rice and a pretty lady eh?” Maths said comically.
His friends laughed behind him. “You cannot even introduce me to your friend eh? Whitey. Are you afraid I will steal her away from you?”
Timothy wanted to defend himself. He wanted to portray himself as bold in Lucia’s eyes. He looked for words to say but his legs shook. No wonder they called him ‘White-rice’ he was tasteless, useless, and unable to make a stand. He could not speak out. He wanted to speak, he made an attempt to but his mouth moved without sound.
“See his face ah-beg. He is swelling!” Maths said.
“Just like rice.” Another said and this made the other boys to burst into hysteric laughter.
“All na shakara. He can’t fit do anything. He can’t never provoke.” Another boy in the group who looked as dumb as he spoke said.
Timothy could feel himself shaking because of the anger inside him but he found no way to express it. It felt like a tornado raging in a room with no door. He wanted to explode. Not necessarily from the jeering itself, but the force pushing inside him, the anger longing to get out. He wanted to break out, scream out, and punch him on the face, something… His entire body started to vibrate now. It was almost like an epileptic fit. As they saw him shake, the boy’s laughter intensified, Timothy felt like blowing up. All of a sudden, a small hand came on his shoulder. At contact, he realized that it was Lucia. The touch calmed him at once.
She squeezed his shoulder and whispered to him. “Let’s go.”
Leading the way, she pushed through the wall of delinquents and kept on walking. Maths stared in awe.
“Ehhh!” Maths exclaimed. “See this one o. Bobby guard. So it’s this girl that will protect you? You better come back here or I will beat you and beat her too.”
They kept on walking.
Maths hurried behind them and grabbed Lucia’s hand violently. “C’mon will you stop-”
Lucia turned around sharply. She shook his hands off and pointed right at the centre of her face. “Look here. Don’t you ever think of touching me again, you filthy scum of the earth. If you thought you intimidate people. You don’t intimidate me. Who do you think you are? You think we are afraid of you? My father has a gun, for your information. And let me just say, I moved here because some boy thought that he was not afraid to use it. If you try me… I said if you try me. Oga. You are dead.” She looked dead serious.
Maths just gawked at her along with his entire group including Timothy.
“And finally, it is Bodyguard not Bobby guard.” She added with a lot of attitude then she turned back around and continued walking again.
When they had gone a distance, Lucia started laughing. “Did you see their faces?”
Timothy smiled reluctantly. “Did your father really kill a boy?”
“No.” She said seriously. “They were actually three. The last one was only shot on the leg.”
Timothy’s eyes widened and Lucia laughed again.
“I’m joking ooo!” she said. “You are so funny.”
“That’s the first time I’ve heard that. You are an excellent actor.” Timothy said scratching his head. He felt ashamed that he couldn’t defend himself. Lucia probably thought he was timid and weak. That was one hell of a first impression that he had given her.
“Really? Thank you. I try. Acting is one of my many talents.” She said dramatically. “Don’t mind those boys. They are just looking for trouble. That is the only way they can feel relevant.”
He thought about her words. At least Maths had a way to feel relevant. He had never felt relevant in his life. He felt plain. He felt like a ghost, in fact worse than a ghost. At least a ghost could terrify someone. He was incapable of any impact. He couldn’t even defend himself in the presence of Lucia.
They stopped in front of Timothy’s house and were about to go their separate ways when she said. “Wait.” Timothy watched the girl curiously as she brought out a pen from her school bag and wrote her number on his palm. “You better call me so I can save your number too.” She said as she hurried across the street into her own house.
Timothy went straight into his room and locked the door. He saved her number in his cell phone straightaway. Carefully he scrolled through his contacts. The other numbers were of family members and former assignment group members from school who had probably already deleted his number. Lucia’s own was precious to him, his first real friend. He thought of her and smiled. He couldn’t wait to hear her voice again.
After deliberating about the perfect moment, immediately after he had his dinner, he called Lucia.
“Stop jumping on the bed.” He heard Lucia say once she picked.
“Oh sorry. I am talking to my little sister.”
“Don’t call me ‘little sister’!” he heard another female voice say from the other side of the line. Her world seemed as colourful and bubbly as she was.
“Hello Tim.” She said jokingly.
“Lucia, Tim?” he never had a nickname before. He never seemed to need one since he had no friends.
“What about Timmy?”
“You can call me that if you want.”
“At least it’s better than ‘White-rice’. I don’t even get the name.”
“Yeah.” Timothy said quietly. “I thought I’d call you back so you can have my number too.”
“Okay. I’ll make sure I save it. What did you have for dinner Timmy?”
Timothy paused. It was a weird question. It was as though Lucia was looking for an excuse to keep talking with him. “I… I ate yam.”
“Me, I ate beans. I hate yam. Did you cook it?”
“No. I can’t cook.”
Lucia laughed “Remind me to teach you how to.”
Timothy heard a wrap on the door. He wondered who it could be. This moment was so rare. Who was the devil who was resolved on destroying it? “Timothy!” he heard his older brother’s voice from the other side of the door. He grunted. His brother always had a way of ruining everything.
“Did you hear me?” Lucia said.
“I said where do you people go for fun around here?”
“Oh. I’m not really the fun kind of person.”
“Timothy! Open this door jor!” His brother screamed again.
Timothy grumbled. “I have to go Lucia. We’ll see tomorrow.”
“Oh” Lucia sounded disappointed. “Okay. Then please bring your Physics notebook to school. I’m behind according to my former school’s notes.”
“Okay.” Timothy said as he stood up to open the door for his brother.
“Good night.” Lucia said.
Timothy replied and opened the door. He stared at his brother angrily with the phone still on his ear.
“This is a strange sight indeed. So the rumours are true.” The tall twenty year old said as he strutted into the room and sat on his younger brother’s bed. He oozed of confidence unlike his younger brother. In fact, they didn’t even look related.
“What are you talking about?”
“George said he saw you with a girl; A very beautiful girl. I’m impressed. It seems that the family charm has finally rubbed off on you.”
“That is not your business.” Timothy said
“No need to be shy. I just came to give some brotherly advice.”
Timothy stared at him with disdain.
“See, I heard that the girl is pretty so you have to be very careful. I know you have a tender little heart. Pretty girls are dangerous. She might just be nice because she wants something from you. That is how girls are. It’s an irony really. They appear heavenly, but they are really sneaky, dirty little witches. Not saying that your friend is one.” And he was one to know, he changed ‘girls’ more than he changed his boxers.
Timothy closed his eyes and exhaled. “She is just my friend, if you must know. It is not how you are seeing it.”
“I’m seeing it well my brother.” He slapped Timothy on the back. “It is always like that. Either you feel the feelings first or she does. Just be careful sha. Be cautious about how you let her get to you.” He narrowed his eyes at his brother as though he had dropped a real word of advice.
Timothy’s brother stood up and left the room. His brother always felt like an expert at everything. He was the exact opposite of Timothy. He would prefer it if his brother didn’t interfere in his life.
Timothy closed the door behind him with a frown. He didn’t like bonding with his brother because he always had a way of making him feel puny and incapable of anything. His brother always reminded him of his inferiority.
To be continued…