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Once Upon A December - Literature (4) - Nairaland

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Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:18pm On Jan 21
Cricket continued, “Someone informed me privately that this class – my class – had been turned into a nightclub. How shocking! In the history of this great school, there has never been a class so stubborn like J.H.S 1A! Only God knows how mad I was when the report came in. Had the principal heard of this, it would have proved what he has always been saying that I am too weak to handle this class. How demeaning, all because of you dimwits! I am a father of three boys and they are all adults now; two of them are even married. I am not weak.

Yes, I will prove that by dealing aggressively with you.”


The tendency was there among the students to deny the report but who was brave enough to interrupt Cricket?


“But Cric- Sir,” only Jasmine had that courage to speak and she didn’t even rise, “you haven’t asked us if it’s true-”


“Will you shut up?!” Cricket banged his fist on the desk furiously and most of the students flinched, not including Jasmine though who raised eyebrows, unmoved.

“Spoilt Brat!”


Jasmine felt a surge of annoyance at that as both teacher and student glared at each other.


“Now,” Cricket said to the class who were anxiously waiting to hear their judgement, “I have decided to exempt you from tomorrow’s party-”


Murmurings and moans filled the room. “Silence!” Cricket double-slapped the desk and calm returned. “Whether you moan about it or not, you are not taking part in tomorrow’s end of term party. Instead, while your mates are having the time of their lives at the assembly hall, you will be busy making yourselves useful by cleaning up every corner of the school campus. Woe betides any who even entertains the thought of boycotting school by staying at home.”


With gasps of shock at the severity of the punishment, the kids glanced at each other.


“However,” Cricket raised a finger, “I am willing to spare you this time if…if you point out to me those who masterminded the chaos you were creating here.”


Though the mention of getting spared had brought great relief to the class, the condition it came with had brought them a headache. Cricket watched as the students exchanged glances, shrugged and whispered at each other.


“Alright,” he said, getting up, “you’re cleaning the school tomorrow"


“No!” Judy flew up at once much to everyone’s bewilderment.


“Yes?” Cricket asked. “Now you’re the class prefect, tell me the names.”


“Sir,” she said boldly and pointed to Jasmine, “It was Jasmine’s idea. She was behind everything.”


Jasmine’s jaw dropped in shock as she couldn’t believe her ears. “You’re a foul little git, you know that?” she said to Judy.
“My guess was right,” a satisfied smile curled up on his mouth as Cricket took his seat, nodding, “Jasmine Akuba Ampofo.


Who else? Within a little over a month, you have snatched the title of ‘villain’ from Mona.”


Elizabeth quickly rose to Jasmine’s defence. “It’s not true, sir! Judy is lying.”


“What is the truth, then, eh Elizabeth?” he asked. “You’re trying to root for your friend right? Sit down!”


Jasmine fumed at Judy whose time had arrived to smile. No one else could say a thing as the responsibility fell squarely on Jasmine’s shoulders and she also refused to mention any other names. How she wished she were alone with Judy! She would have spanked the life out of her!
“Jasmine!” Cricket called with a loud voice and beckoned at her to step forward. On her way, she gestured a ‘You’ll see’ at Judy who only waved at her with the most annoying smile. Cricket pointed to the spot beside his desk and Jasmine stood there, facing the class with arms folded and narrowed eyes directed at Judy. Goodness knew the degree of evil she schemed against Judy. Not even a single trace of remorse could be sensed from her demeanour.


Cricket then spoke to the class. “Before you, class, is the most stubborn student ever to appear in this school. That was how the principal put it. Her own teachers are even fed up with her attitude. Jasmine is a bad example to imitate. Do not allow her perceived intelligence deceive you. Stay away from her if you want to stay out of trouble. See how she almost put you all into trouble?”


Cricket paused and looked at the girl standing beside him from head to foot with disgust. The class was as silent as a graveyard with Jasmine’s tapping foot probably the only sound that could be heard.


“Nevertheless,” Cricket continued, turning to the class, “this girl placed first in the entire J.H.S 1 with the highest overall score ever recorded by a student since this school was established-”

That didn’t move Jasmine a bit.


“ Impressive but mysterious as well. I just can’t fathom how a girl who is so undisciplined and who joined the class late in the term could displace great talents like Judy from the top – Judy, what happened?”
The teacher’s favourite stood up slowly, feeling disappointed. “Sir, I studied hard, harder than in Primary 6…I don’t know what happened.”


“What happened is that you got beaten by a far superior talent,” Elizabeth chipped in quietly while zipping up her bag to muffle her comment, but the teacher had heard her.

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Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:20pm On Jan 21
“Quiet, Elizabeth, no one asked for your opinion.”


“Or it confirms the fact that she’s a witch,” Judy said to Elizabeth as she took her seat, “and obviously has been casting spells on me since her arrival.”


Cricket giggled alone. “Funny, Judy.”


That was it. Jasmine had had enough of the humiliation. Without warning, she darted to Judy’s desk and attacked her with punches on her face.


“Hey! Hey! Stop them!” Cricket rose to his feet as some of the students tried to intervene in the gruelling fight.


“You haven’t seen my witchcraft yet,”

Jasmine growled, grabbing Judy by the face as efforts to separate them were beginning to look fruitless. Pumped up with adrenaline, the youngest student in the class fought like a wild beast. Not even Elizabeth’s pleas to stop could convince Jasmine to end the fight.


“What are you standing there doing?!”


Cricket shouted angrily at some of the boys in the room who were caught scene watching. “Are you not boys?!”


“I will kill you today,” Jasmine threatened during the fight and kicking Judy’s legs, Jasmine dragged her down the floor and sat on her, slapping her from all angles. One boy who tried to pull Jasmine away from the poor Judy got his arm bitten by Jasmine.


Elizabeth shook her head and giggled. Judy had had the worst day of her life that day and Elizabeth was confident she wouldn’t mess with Jasmine again. Everyone knew Jasmine was the stubborn and rude type especially towards those she felt didn’t like her. However, no one had imagined she could fight this fiercely. Mr Benjamin Ayittey or Cricket as Jasmine had nicknamed him, made Jasmine kneel outside the corridor till the second break was over; a duration of about an hour. Then, he made her fill a whole exercise book with the sentence “I will not fight in school again.”


Somehow, the book had ended up with Elizabeth. Hugging it tight, Elizabeth lay on her back, missing her friend.

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Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:23pm On Jan 21
*******

“David, David, it’s okay,” Keren dragged her wailing husband into their bedroom and locked the door behind them. He was slumped on the bed, beating his chest in agony and Keren quickly sat beside David, pulling him close to her bosom. “It’s alright, honey,” she kissed him on the head. “Please stop the crying. You’re making me sad.”


“I’m so sorry, Keren,” David sobbed, looking up at Keren’s saddened face. “Please forgive me.”


“Oh, David,” she gently wiped his tears with a tissue. “I have nothing against you. It’s not your fault you got duped. It’s okay. These things happen. Please calm down.”


David sniffled and sat up. Keren rubbed his shoulders, trying everything to comfort him. “I promise to try to get your money back-”
Keren pressed a finger on David’s lips.

“Shhh,…our money. Not my money. It doesn’t matter, David. The money is lost. Let it go.”
“But it’s 40, 000, ” David bit his lip and punched his palm in regret. “I’ve been fooled.”


Keren hated the way he covered his dropped head with his palms. She wrapped an arm around him. “It’s okay,” she reassured him tenderly. “Stop being too hard on yourself.

I’ll call the bank to see what they can do. For all you know, your friend may haven’t cashed the cheque yet.”


David looked at her with reddened eyes on a gloomy face. “Okay?” she caressed his hair. “Don’t worry. It doesn’t matter.” David gave a slow nod and then sighed deeply.


“But why did you have to tell Afiba and not me?” Keren wondered but in a gentle tone. “The poor girl couldn’t stand seeing you cry.


You even begged her not to mention it to me? David, why?”


“I-I…” David swallowed, looking into the pair of beautiful but compassionate eyes in front of him. “I feared for your emotions. The amount was too huge.”


“David…” Keren shook her head slowly. “…what matters to me most in life is my family…not money. I think my mood this morning may have also scared you from telling me right?” David gave a nod.


Keren smiled faintly, taking his hand and rubbing it. “I’m sorry. This whole mystery and my worrying about Jasmine is killing me. I just can’t stop feeling there’s something wrong with our daughter, but my parents won’t tell me. It’s been almost two weeks and I haven’t heard her sweet voice.”


It was David’s turn to rub her hands. “She is okay. Their school will soon re-open and Jas will be home again. Don’t worry.”


Keren smiled – not because of his words – but her husband seemed to be getting over the loss. “Thanks. I’ve got to get back.” She got up and reached for a folder lying on her desk. “I forgot to take it to work today.”


“Oh ok.”


She came to stand before him still sitting on the bed. “We will talk more about it tonight okay?” Keren gave him a full kiss on the forehead. “Try and enjoy your day.”


“You too,” he responded softly with a wave as she rushed out of the door, “my love.”
Wow. What a narrow escape. Somehow, David had given a satisfying explanation to the scene Keren had arrived upon minutes earlier: a friend who had proposed a business idea to him had duped David, running away with the cheque Keren had signed for him. Keren believed him. His tears were so convincing; if only she knew what those tears were meant for!

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Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:25pm On Jan 21
David knew Keren would later find out that the cheque hadn’t been cashed. Yes, he will play being so relieved. The games. He was doing well in not giving Keren the slightest hint of what had befallen her dear daughter.


But for how long? Hopefully, by the time Stacy arrived, around Christmas – the week ahead – he would have succeeded in his games to keep Keren alive. That was only going to happen if he gave into Nadesh’s request and in the process, breaking his marriage vow. That, he simply couldn’t imagine himself doing.


The troubles were not over. The next few days had the potential of changing his life either for good or worse.


***


I’m not going to ask you to give in to the lady’s demands. Neither am I going to ask you not to accept the blackmailer’s deal. What I’m going to ask you now, David is to do everything possible to hide the deathof Jasmine from Keren before I come on the 25 th. Hold it tight. Let no word about the tragedy slip out. Please. 25 th is just a few days away.


He had lost count of how many times he had replayed in his mind those words of Stacy when she called him around midday.


As the electric shave buzzed back and forth across the customer’s head, David slipped deeper and deeper into an abyss of thoughts. Was there another way of stopping Nadesh from breaking the news to Keren without cheating on his beloved wife? David kept asking himself the same question several times and received a blank answer several times.


Just as absentminded as David was during the haircut, the young man receiving the service was so immersed in the magazine he read that both didn’t realise that David had trespassed boundaries on the young man’s hair. The bearded young man had asked David to shave only the sides of his head, to allow his Mohawk to stand out but the barber had shaved him to baldness! The dyed Mohawk lay in strips on the floor.


The young man gasped when he felt the razor’s teeth against the skin on the middle part of the skull. He looked up straight at the mirror and saw the newly created desert on his once hair-rich head while the culprit stood behind him, covering his mouth in shock.


“My guy…” the young man with tattoos on his muscular arms gaped as he rubbed a hand over the smooth asphalt road on his head. “What have you done?”


“Chief, please, I’m sorry,” David pleaded softly, taking slow steps backwards as the young man got up and turned around to face him. He was about David’s height but his packs were so conspicuous that they threatened to burst out his tight outfit.

“Boss, I-I-I- forgive me, please.”


Gaping at David who retreated towards the couch in fear, the young man wondered if he was dreaming. “What the-?” he rubbed his head in disbelief and then said to David, “Mr Barber, you had better grow back my hair now or else the way I’m going to break you!”


“Oh boss,” poor David slowly sat on the couch and seemingly crawled backwards from the young man getting ready to pounce on him. “Have mercy. I- I will compensate with money, please.”


“Did I tell you I need money?!” he kicked the couch and David flinched in fear. “Huh?! Give me back my hair now!”


***


After closing from work, Martin decided against all odds to pass by David’s shop with the rare faith of finding him there even though it was past 4 pm. He was glad to see the post “OPEN” hanging on the tainted glass door. Carefully, he parked right behind David’s car. When he slid the glass door open, he met a scene that was both bewildering and saddening.


“Massa,” the now bald young man growled, grappling David’s shirt and hauling him up to his feet like an empty sack. “Don’t joke with me! I say give me back my hair!” The scene reminded Martin of David’s encounter with Keren’s mother some days ago.


“Oh boss, please,” Martin jumped into the fray and freed David from the angry man’s grip. Standing between the two, Martin pleaded with the man in a voice soft enough to break bones, “Please, please, whatever the problem is, let us solve it amicably like gentlemen. Please. What’s the problem?”


The bald man needed some seconds to pull the brakes on his over speeding heart before he could utter words from his trembling lips. “I came here for a side haircut only for this fool,” he narrated, pointing to David who had sat down and buried his face in his palms in embarrassment, “to cut everything down!”
“Oh,” Martin had to take the man by the arms and lead him away from David, “I understand how you feel and I’m sorry this has happened. We can talk about it and settle it.”

“Are you the owner of this shop?”


“Yes,” Martin lied confidently with a nod. He slid the door open, “Let’s go to my car and let me get you something, sir.”


“Sack him o!” the bald man ordered on his way out. “Sack him! Or no one will come here.”


“Let’s talk outside, please.”

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Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:27pm On Jan 21
The door slid closed and David ran a hand through his hair, rubbing his neck. He leaned back and folded arms with eyes shut.


Martin entered a few minutes later and settled beside him. He wrapped an arm around David and shook him some comfort.


“All settled, man. You must have been thinking deeply about the whole saga that you didn’t realize that you had a razor in your hand.”


David nodded, his eyes still closed.


“I know it’s tough,” Martin said. “But I’m with you on this thing. You’re not alone okay?”
“Thanks,” David said very softly and when he opened his eyes, they were watery.


“Aw man, wipe those tears,” Martin offered him a hanky.


“I just can’t get over her,” David folded the hanky but didn’t wipe the teardrops.


“Jasmine was my only child and for her rudeness and all, I still loved her very much. But I killed her. I killed my only baby, Martin.”


He sniffled and continued, “And now I stand the risk of losing my dear wife too, my Keren. And the only way I can offer her a chance of survival is by sleeping with a woman she calls her best friend. That’s the story of my life, Martin.”


Martin sighed. “I tried talking to her in the morning and she confessed that not only does she wants revenge against Keren but she is also into you at the same time. Killing two birds with a stone – that’s how she put it.”

“What did Keren do to her?” David was curious.

Martin smirked. “You want to know?”

“Yes!”

“Close up and let’s go.”

“Where? Home?”


“No,” Martin got up, taking David by the hand and raising him up to his feet. “Somewhere cool and calm. Like the restaurant at the harbour view. The cool breeze from the sea will aid my memory. It’s been so many years.”

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Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:29pm On Jan 21
Chapter twelve


The classroom was grave-silent. The only sound being heard was that of the chalk writing on the blackboard. The students were set to write their first Mathematics class test of the term that morning. They had just entered their second year in the secondary school. Neatly dressed in their white and sky-blue uniforms, the students epitomised the discipline their school was renowned for. On each desk was a blank sheet of paper and a pen.


“Please write down your names and today’s date,” Mr Rockson said and tossed the piece of chalk at a boy seated in one corner of the class. The boy caught it with a smile as Rockson took his seat beside the window. A student seated in the first row – the prettiest in the class and perhaps the whole school - wrote on her sheet

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Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:32pm On Jan 21
6th October 1998.


The teacher with grey patches on his hair glanced at the questions he had just copied onto the board and then turned to the class, peering at them through his moon-shaped glasses. “These questions are so easy. I mean, you all should score 20 out of 20.”
“Eiii !” the class protested in unison except for the pretty girl who only shook her head with a faint smile. She then neatly penned down her name on the sheet,
Nadesh Adjoa Annobil. The back-seaters still protested, “Ei, sir! The questions are tough o.” Mr Rockson shook his head in amazement and disappointment. Then, he decided to apply the motivation technique.
He pulled out a currency note from his pocket. It glittered. “You see this 1000 Cedis note, class?” he showed them the note. “It will go into the pocket of him or her who scores everything.” Mouths opened wide, jaws dropped, glances were exchanged, eyes widened and some even picked out their ears, wondering if they had heard their teacher right. 1000 cedis?!


That was no small amount, they thought.
Who would needto depend on the tasteless meals served at the dining halls with this amount in the pocket? Everyone was ready to give their best shot at winning the prize.


“The ball is in your court now,” Rockson smiled, feeling happy within him that he had aroused the spirits of the students. “You have 20 minutes. Start work.” With lightning speed, pens scribbled across pages of paper, eyes darted from the blackboard to paper and vice versa and fingers struck the keys of calculators in a rhythm. Nadesh was perhaps the only student who was relaxed at the moment, taking her time to answer the questions. Rockson studied at her, smiling and nodding proudly at the most promising student of the school.


His admiration of Nadesh was cut short when the stout headmaster appeared in the doorway with a new student. He beckoned at Rockson to come outside. Quickly, Rockson went over to him, stealing the attention of Nadesh. Her curiosity was ignited when she spotted a new girl with the headmaster shaking hands with Mr Rockson. Nadesh paused writing and stared through the doorway at the three people standing outside.


As Mr Rockson spoke with the headmaster in hushed tones, the new girl glanced at the classroom. Her eyes met that of Nadesh.


She was forced to give Nadesh a faint smile and Nadesh returned one. When the headmaster glanced at the classroom, Nadesh swiftly took her eyes off them and returned to the test. The men spoke for about 10 minutes before the headmaster left, leaving the new girl with Rockson.


Most of the students were so busy solving equations that they didn’t notice Rockson enter the classroom with a new student. Mr Rockson clapped, “Pause, everyone, just for a minute.” There was a collective moan at this as some students dropped their pens in frustration. “Don’t worry; there will be injury time added to it.”


“I would like to introduce to you our new friend here,” the teacher announced, with his arm on the shoulder of the new girl who was about half his height. “She is in the name of…” Mr Rockson motioned to the shy girl to mention her name.


“Keren Miezah,” she said in a low voice, clutching the hands of her bag pack tightly, but the boys at the back row complained they didn’t hear what she had said. “Keren Miezah.” She raised her voice an octave louder.


“Welcome, Keren,” those boys said in unison and Mr Rockson could only shake his head with a light smile.


“Thank you,” Keren mesmerised them with her beautiful smile.


“Aw…” the boys purred, placing their hands on their chest dramatically. Keren joined the class in laughing at the drama and that made things worse because her laugh was one of a unique cuteness. Some of the boys were already drooling! The girls, if not all of them, were already liking her. They found her beautiful with that dark skin.


True, there were other beautiful female students like Nadesh, but Keren’s beauty was on another level. Those eyes of hers were a gorgeous sight to behold. Her long hair pulled back in a ponytail was obviously going to be the talk of the day as some of the girls were beginning to wonder why the new girl was allowed to grow her hair when it wasn’t allowed in the school.


Nadesh couldn’t control the pace at which her heart went out for this new girl. She simply couldn’t help smiling at Keren. “Well,” Mr Rockson took over. “That was a nice welcome. I’m glad to announce to you that Miss Miezah will be joining your class now.


So, please, extend all cordialities to her.” He turned to Keren and lowered his voice, “You see those three empty seats? You can occupy the one you like.” Keren thanked him and chose an empty desk exactly in the centre of the classroom. Sitting on her immediate left was a light-skinned boy in glasses. The test had caused the poor gentleman to sweat badly.


“You may resume now,” Mr Rockson announced and took his seat. He watched as Keren quickly pulled out a blank page from an exercise book and started to put pen to paper. “Oh, Keren,” Rockson called, “don’t bother yourself with the test okay?


Take time and settle.” Keren paused and dropped her shoulders. She didn’t look too pleased to just sit there and watch her new mates write a test. Fortunately, the experienced teacher recognised her disappointment. “Or if you wish, you can give it a try.” The girl’s face lit up and she went back to work at once. Rockson had only known Keren for about 15 minutes, but he had already taken a liking to the girl. She looked like a hard-working student – just the type that Rockson liked.

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Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:35pm On Jan 21
Then the amazing happened. She had barely spent 5 minutes after putting pen to paper when suddenly Keren rose up and walked up to the teacher’s desk. At first, some of the students thought she wanted to talk to Mr Rockson. Even Rockson felt the same. “Is there a problem, Keren?” he asked, looking up at the cute face.


“No, sir,” she said, gently handing over her sheet. “I’m done.” And done she really was. Mr Rockson turned the sheet over quickly; she had answered everything correctly in record time. His eyes darted at Keren and back to the sheet with a half-opened mouth. As Keren turned around, heading to her seat, she stole the attention of nearly all her mates. Mr Rockson even took off his glasses and watched her for a brief while. Who is this new phenomenon ? He wondered.


Nadesh was next to present hers. However, Mr Rockson didn’t bother to have a look at her answers right away as he normally would. He placed the sheet aside and went over Keren’s work. Soon, the test was over and he told them they would receive their results later in the afternoon. Once Mr Rockson left the classroom, the once serene room suddenly turned to a marketplace. Girls moved from desk to desk, others drew their desk closer to others, obviously gossiping.


Keren was by no means lonely. Nearly every boy wanted to strike up a conversation with her. She was the new celebrity! She forced a soft laugh when it got to a point where some boys playfully fought over who was next to speak with her. No girl approached her during the interviews from the boys. Yet, she caught glances directed at her from groups of girls every now and then. She was certain that at least, she was a subtopic if not the main topic of the various conversations going on across the desks. In no time, her interviews were over and she was granted a moment of peace.


“Hey, Keren,” the light-skinned boy on her left called suddenly. He was one of the few boys who hadn’t spoken to Keren yet even though he sat closest to her


“Hello,” she smiled.


“I’m Martin,” he extended a hand.


Keren shook his hand. “Nice to meet you, Martin. Hope the test went well.”

“Yeah – sort of. How were you able to finish the test so far".


“Hello, new girl,” Nadesh cut in suddenly, appearing before Keren’s desk. She eagerly extended a hand out to Keren. “I’m Nadesh Adjoa Annobil. Just call me Nadesh.”


“Hey Nadesh,” Martin gave her a gentle shove. “Can’t you see I was talking to her when you came?”


“So?” Nadesh shrugged. Keren glanced across their faces with a puzzled look, hoping this wasn’t going to lead to an argument.


“You’re at it again, right?” Martin wagged a finger at her, looking a bit annoyed.


“Oh, please,” Nadesh gave him a dismissive wave of her hand. “Don’t make me starve you today.” Nadesh then turned to Keren with a grin. Just then, the bell sounded for the first break signaling then that it was time for breakfast. As cutleries clanged and students hastily prepared to go to the dining hall, Nadesh took Keren’s hand. “Just ignore him and come with me. Let me introduce you to the girls, okay.”


Keren looked a bit hesitant to abandon Martin just like that. Martin noticed it and urged her not to worry about him. “Just come,” Nadesh pulled Keren up to her feet and dragged her along. “Don’t worry about breakfast; I’ll fix you something.”


“Hey, Nadesh,” Martin called. “Please don’t forget my bread, I beg you.” Martin looked on sadly as Nadesh led Keren out of the classroom without a reply. However, Keren managed to give Martin a wave before exiting the classroom. Martin waved back with a slight smile. The new girl certainly was friendly and didn’t look pompous like a certain Nadesh he knew. Martin stayed behind in class as he hadn’t yet paid his fees and couldn’t, therefore, go to the dining hall for breakfast.


About half an hour later, the bell rang for students to return to class. Martin read over some notes in Economics when his mates streamed in chattering noisily with their cutleries adding to the noise. It didn’t take too long for Keren to return to the classroom. But to Martin’s surprise, she didn’t come alone. Keren was part of a group of four girls including Nadesh, chattering and laughing gleefully. Keren surely was settling in quickly. The girls followed her to her desk where they surrounded her.


“I’m so glad you are in our house, Keren,”

Nadesh admitted. “I’ll surely find you a place beside my bed.”


“Aw thanks, Nadesh,” Keren said. “I’ll really appreciate that.”


“So, tell us, Keren,” started Ethel, the tallest and slimmest, sitting on Keren’s desk, “Where were you schooling earlier before your transfer?”

“I,I"

“St. Anne’s Girls,” Nadesh cut in at once. “Accra.”

“I wasn’t talking to you, Nadesh,” Ethel retorted.


Keren smiled faintly and took a drink from her water bottle. Abena, the other girl in the group, average in height like Keren but plump with full lips and cheeks, complained, “Let the girl talk for herself. Ah, you like rushing too much, Nadesh.”


“Okay, okay, okay,” Nadesh raised hands in surrender. “Over to you, Keren.”


“Now, Keren,” continued Ethel, “tell us why you transferred from your former school.”

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Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:39pm On Jan 21
“Oh ok. But um…” Keren trailed off, glancing at the three faces anxiously. “Aren’t we going to be in trouble if the next teacher comes in and sees us like this?”


Nadesh made a rude sound with her teeth.


“Mr Blown Blead is still enjoying his honeymoon with his vely pletty mistless and will not come to crass today.” Ethel and Abena joined Nadesh in the laughter that erupted, turning heads at them. Keren instantly knew what the laughter was for.

She hadn’t yet met Mr Blown Blead but she could already tell the teacher had a problem pronouncing “r” and “l”.


“Don’t mind us, sweetheart,” Nadesh rubbed Keren’s shoulder as if to cheer her up for Keren hadn’t joined them in their hearty laughter. “Tell us why you moved from St Anne’s.”


“Oh okay,” Keren took a breath, “I was sort of having um – a problem –”


“What kind of problem?” Nadesh enquired at once.


“How do I say this?” Keren sighed deeply.

The girls were very attentive. Keren explained in a low voice. “Ok. I have always had a terrible heart condition from birth. I’m always at the risk of sudden death. When I was only ten, I had a heart attack at school.”


“You…” Abena trailed off, a bit shocked, “…have had a heart attack before?”


“Yeah. I was little. And since then, I travel at least once a year for diagnosis, check-ups, strange medical treatments and all those stuff-”


“Where do you travel to, if I may ask?” Nadesh asked breathlessly.


“Nadesh,” Abena slapped her on the back. “Can you just allow the poor girl to land?”


Keren smiled wryly, beginning to feel uncomfortable explaining her story. “South Africa.” Abena whistled and Ethel cleared her throat. “So late July this year, I had to go for an examination of my condition among other things, but the problem was, it coincided with the third term examination.


My parents sought permission from the headmistress, but she blatantly refused to grant me permission and even warned that I would be repeated in my form if I didn’t write the exam.”


“Ei,” Ethel was taken aback, “some unreasonable woman er?”


“I went anyway,” Keren shrugged. “By the time I returned, the school was on holidays.


I went to school at reopening and they told me I would not be allowed entry to the next form. My father then spoke to the headmaster here, he’s a friend of my dad, and he said I could come here. And here I am.”


Nadesh puffed. “So, how is your heart now?”
Keren sighed. “It’s okay.”


“You’ll be okay with us, Keren,” Ethel placed an arm around her, “we will take good care of you. You’re our friend now. Tell us how we can help you battle your problem.”
“Please don’t creep behind me in the dark,”


she said and laughed with the girls joining her. “And if something tragic happens, please take your time when breaking the news. You know, those things, just try and remember my problem when dealing with me.”


Nadesh sighed deeply. “Well, rich girl,” she tugged a cunning smile. “We-” Nadesh paused abruptly when Abena gave her a double tap at the back, signalling that a teacher was approaching. Quickly, the girls disappeared from Keren's desk and returned to their places. Mr Rockson entered with a pile of sheets which he placed on Nadesh’s desk. Then with a broad smile, he walked down to Keren’s desk, stealing the attention of everyone else.


Keren herself was bemused. Taking her hand, Mr Rockson placed in her soft palm, a very new 1000 cedi note. “Good job, Keren.

You are most welcome.”


“Thank you, sir.”


“See you later,” he said and turned around before announcing to the whole class, “We have a genius in our midst, people.” All eyes were on Keren even after the teacher left.


She didn’t like the attention one bit. The discomfort she felt forced her to pull out a voluminous novel from her bag and pretend to read. The class amazingly had grown very quiet. Nearly everyone read something now. Somehow, Keren’s stellar performance had woken them up to seriousness.


“Nice one there, Keren,” Martin said suddenly to her after a while. “Keep it up.”


“Thanks, Martin,” Keren smiled at him and closed her book.


“I was listening in on your conversation with the girls. So, you’re an Accra girl.”


“Well,” Keren sat well to face him, “I’ve been living in Accra with my parents for a very long time, but we’re not from Accra.”


“Where are you from then?”


“Esiama.”


“Where’s that?” Martin asked.


“Oh, it’s a town in Nzema. From Esiama, there’s a branch road that leads to Nkroful.

You’ve heard of Nkroful, right?”


“Oh yeah,” Martin nodded. “Birthplace of Kwame Nkrumah. Oh ok, I see. So you’re an Nzema. I guess you can teach me how to speak Nzema someday.”


“Sure,” Keren giggled and glanced around if no one was looking before she stuffed the money into Martin’s pocket swiftly.


“Oh Keren, no,” Martin objected, trying to return the money but she stopped him. “It’s your money, Keren, and you deserve it.”


“And I can do whatever I wish with my
money, can’t I? Look, I know you need this money. I don’t. Just take it and buy yourself some food, okay?”

1 Like

Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:42pm On Jan 21
Martin threw in the towel. Keren had discerned from his exchange with Nadesh that Martin needed help. “Alright,” he nodded softly, almost tearing up. “Thanks, Keren. I-I really appreciate it.”


“Don’t worry. And don’t think about paying back, okay? If you need anything, just let me know.”


***


As the term grew on, Nadesh drew ever closer to Keren, the two always pairing up wherever they went. But the story of that term was Keren’s quick rise to stardom. She was the name on the lips of every teacher. Like her beauty, her intelligence was simply on another level. Yet, she wasn’t the type that looked down on others and that surely won her many hearts if not all.


Finally, the end of term examination arrived and Keren simply topped her class by a mile with a performance never before seen in the history of the school. Now a former golden student, Nadesh, had lost her throne to her a girl who had quickly become a close friend.


Amazingly, Nadesh wasn’t bothered by that. Moreover, Keren’s influence on her had caused her to work even harder and she was getting better as she learnt from Keren.


The following term of that academic year arrived, and Keren had become more than a teaching assistant. Her mates were always on her neck for further explanations about topics they didn’t really understand in class.
Some of her seniors who were set to write their final exams even approached her to help clarify things for them in their studies.


They would give her the topic they had a problem with and if she hadn’t been taught in class yet, she would study it on her own and then teach them – sometimes taking the whole night. It was really stressful but she couldn’t turn them down. However, as that term drew to a close, the stress began to take a toll on her. To make matters worse, she had been able to find out from a neighbour back home who had come visiting her ward that Keren’s mother was seriously sick – something her father had tried very hard to hide from her. The anxiety about her mother’s illness and the stress at school had set the stage for her friends to witness something frightening.


***


Martin could tell that something bothered his friend. Keren lay her head on the desk, staring absentmindedly at Mrs Donkor who read an extract to the class. Martin had noticed the change in her for about a week now. Yet, anytime he asked her if there was a problem, she denied it. Not even Nadesh knew what was wrong with her. Her face looked weary that hot afternoon as if she hadn’t slept for years. Martin suspected her recent “teaching assistant” duties had weakened her. She barely rested. Yes, Martin did benefit from Keren’s help, but he had expressed his concern to her about the possible consequences of her stressful routine if she didn’t set some boundaries.


Martin was right though, but he was ignorant of another major factor.


“Feeling sleepy, Keren?” he whispered, looking straight at the teacher in front of them.


“No,” she whispered back.


“I know you’re exhausted. You shouldn’t stay behind today too. I have –”

His words were stuck in his mouth when Keren winced, clutching her chest. “Keren?”


the puzzled Martin called softly. “Are you okay?”


Though she nodded, Martin saw the balling of her fists and wincing on her face as warning signals that something was wrong.


He remembered from sometime last term Keren mentioning a condition she had.


Maybe this was it. “Keren…” he whispered again but, she turned her head away from him.


Martin had had enough. “Madam!” he rose up, alerting everyone. “Something is wrong with Keren.”


Everyone turned to her desk. Mrs Donkor stopped the reading and asked what was wrong with her. “I’m okay, Madam,” she forced those words out with a face that disagreed with her.


“Come here, my child,” Mrs Donkor invited her. Slowly, Keren managed to get on her feet. Everyone could tell from her walk that she was not okay. Her chest rose and fell rapidly and her breath was loud. The class was terrified. Nadesh looked at her with horror as Keren passed by her desk; Keren’s mouth was open and she shivered and sweated.


Mrs Donkor felt Keren’s forehead. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked with a worried look.


“M-M-My mother,” Keren’s lips vibrated and tears had started flowing.


“What’s wrong with your mother?” Mrs Donkor asked as the class looked on, totally confused.


“She’s dying…” Keren trailed off and then clutching her chest suddenly, she let out a most distressful sharp cry before collapsing on Mrs Donkor who saved her body from crashing to the floor. The class swiftly reacted; the boys hurried to carry her outside to the Dispensary. Nadesh couldn’t eat anything for the rest of the day. Keren had ruined the day for the whole school.


***


Keren didn’t return to school till midway the following term. By then, the third years had completed school and Keren’s year mates were now the seniors on campus. Nadesh had also been voted Girl’s School Prefect.


That day after classes had ended, as Nadesh and a few girls strolled to their dormitory, a car honked and pulled up by them. When the glass was rolled down, they were treated to a surprise! Keren was back after about three months of not hearing anything about her! Nadesh couldn’t hold back her joy; screaming, hugging and shedding tears of joy. It was as if Keren had been brought back to life from the dead.

2 Likes

Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:45pm On Jan 21
The celebration spread among so many of her mates, especially her classmates, who surrounded her father’s car and carried her things to the dorm. But Nadesh immediately had Keren move into the prefect’s cabin where Abena and Ethel were already staying even though they weren’t prefects. Naturally, being the prefect’s closest associates had benefits. Keren had surprises from them too. She had done a little shopping for her friends during her final days in Johannesburg. Just like Nadesh, Ethel and Abena received a pair of shoes each. Unlike Abena who had to force her feet into hers, those of Nadesh and Ethel fitted with ease, looking gorgeous on them. The girls couldn’t wait for the next day to show them off.


They were already late for preps. Abena and Ethel couldn’t wait for Nadesh to search for her books but Keren waited behind. She had actually been hoping for a moment with Nadesh alone. Keren had a special surprise for Nadesh; a gold-plated necklace. It was a design of elegance. Nadesh stared at the ornament held before her with a dropped jaw. She remained dumbfounded as Keren put it around her neck. Nadesh was pretty, but the necklace made her look even more beautiful. Too bad she wouldn’t be able to wear it on campus. So after hiding it in her trunk, the two girls went for preps, walking hand in hand.


The four girls chatted late into the night in the dormitory when evening came. Nadesh’s cabin had enough space for two bunk beds and extra space for four trunks. Nadesh and Keren occupied one bunk bed with Nadesh allowing Keren to take her favourite spot- the top bed. Abena and Ethel occupied the other. But during the conversation, Keren had joined Nadesh on her bed below. The girls told Keren almost everything that had occurred in her absence; how Keren’s heart attack affected them, how much they missed her, prayed for her every day and kept pestering the headmaster for news about Keren – an information they never had. Then they arrived at the school elections and the campaign they organised.


“Glad you weren’t around,” Nadesh teased Keren with a grin, giving her a nudge with her shoulder. “You would have been nominated instead of me.” The girls laughed. But then, the conversation changed to a topic that made Keren uncomfortable: Boys. Ethel began with a crush she had on a boy in the Arts class.


Abena plainly told them about a university student she had fallen in love with during the vacation and had already slept with twice under the pretext of going to his house to study Mathematics. Keren was shocked, but she felt too timid to display it.


Somehow, her friends had changed rather quickly during her long absence.


At least my best friend isn’t into boys, she told herself. So she thought. “Come on, Nadesh,” Abena urged. “Tell Keren about yours. Don’t pretend you haven’t been having an adventure of your own.”


Keren turned to her and asked naively. “You…have a boyfriend?”


“Yeah,” Nadesh shrugged. “But why are you acting like it’s such a bad thing?


“Keren,” Ethel looked at her strangely. “Are you saying you’re a virgin?”


Everyone looked at Keren. “Yeah,” she shrugged but wondering what the girls were going to say. “I’m – I’m not married, am I?”


The girls exchanged glances and burst into laughter. “What?” she asked, forcing a reluctant wry smile. “You mean aside Abena, you two are also no longer virgins?”
“Nadesh even had one last Saturday night right here!” Ethel said excitedly.


“With the charming Boys’ prefect,” Abena specified and gave Nadesh a high five.
Keren gaped at last.


“What?” Nadesh gave Keren a gentle shove. “Don’t give me that look, Keren. We’re no longer kids.”


“But we aren’t adults either, and moreover we are still students!”


Nadesh rolled her eyes.


“Wait,” Ethel inched forward. “Keren, are you telling us that there was nothing between you and Martin last term?”


“No!” Keren fiercely denied. “He’s just my friend.”


“But he’s a boy,” Abena said.


“And when we add the two words,” Nadesh came in with her cunning smile. “What do we get?”


“Boyfriend!” the three girls said in unison and laughed. Keren shook her head and attempted to climb back up, but Nadesh grabbed her arm and sat her down. “Hey,” she admonished softly, “we’re young. This is our time, let’s enjoy it. Besides, it’s not scary; it’s fun.”


“We can set you up with a guy of your choice, Keren,” Abena came to sit beside her, trapping Keren between Nadesh and herself. “You’re a very beautiful girl whom any boy would beg to have –”


“Except my charming sweetheart, please,”


Nadesh was swift to point out and Abena giggled along with Ethel. “But we’re glad there’s nothing between you and that John boy, Martin. Trust me, Keren, he is boring. I’ve known him since nursery. Just look out for the one you like and we will hook you up.”


Keren glanced at their faces without a word. She only hugged herself and rubbed her shoulders like a scared lost girl in the woods.


“Okay?” Nadesh took Keren’s palms.


“I don’t know – I – don’t think I’m ready – ”
“Let’s give Keren some time to think about it,” Ethel suggested. “She only arrived today.”

1 Like

Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:48pm On Jan 21
Keren went to bed that night with chaos in her mind. What kept her awake was her friends’ immoral attitude. It was very disturbing to her.


***


Keren had looked vibrant and full of life when she returned but after that night with the girls, she was troubled within her. As the end of term examinations approached, Keren could no longer handle the pressure from her friends. She needed external help if she wasn’t going to give into peer pressure.


Yet, she didn’t want to speak to a teacher about it for fear she might get her friends into trouble. But she could speak with Martin! Keren knew Martin was decent and certainly wasn’t into sexual relationships.
On Saturday afternoon, Keren sought for Martin on campus. She found him with a group of boys on the school’s football field. When she asked to see him, Martin’s friends cheered. Obviously, it wasn’t only Keren’s friends who felt something was going on between the two. Ignoring the boys, Martin took a walk with Keren towards their classroom. Keren suggested they sit on the stairs that led to the corridor. She told him all that the girls had said and the pressure they were heaping on her.


“You shouldn’t listen to them, Keren,” Martin warned. “Don’t forget why you’re here. If you give in and start to chase boys around, it will affect your studies and reputation. People respect you here. The teachers, the headmaster and us, we know you are a perfect girl. Imagine how they will feel if they get to know that you are sleeping around.”


“Yeah, you’re right,” Keren mumbled, biting her nail.


“Yes. And your parents, if they hear about it…I don’t know but I’m sure they will be unhappy at the least.”


“Hmm,” Keren crossed her legs, “my dad will just say don’t do it again. But, mum, she will eat me up.”


Martin giggled. “I see. You know, I don’t want to decide for you but, those girls, even before you told me, I’d been hearing rumours about them. They are bad for you.


You should quit associating with them, Keren. They might influence you in the long run.”


Keren hugged herself. “They’re my best friends,” she remarked softly. “Nadesh is just like a sister to me. I can’t. But I’ll be careful.”


“Are you sure?”


Keren nodded eagerly. Martin sighed, looking worriedly at Keren. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully and was about to utter a word when a voice called Keren’s name.


When they turned, there was the Boy’s prefect, handsome like Prince Charming, descending the small grass hill at the sides of the classroom block. He was the best student in the Science classes and since her return, Keren had overhead several star-struck girls talking about him in romantic tones.


“Hello Keren,” he greeted.


“Hey, Desmond,” Keren smiled lightly at him.
“Excuse us,” Desmond gestured rudely to Martin to leave. “I have an important discussion with Keren here.”


“Alright,” Martin stood up and said softly to Keren, “we’ll talk later, okay?


“Okay, bye,” Keren waved as Desmond settled down beside her so closely, leaving not even an inch of space between them.


Keren had never felt this uncomfortable in her life. She wished the earth would open up and swallow her.


“How are you feeling now?” he asked in a gentle tone.


“Fine,” she answered, inching away imperceptibly from him. “What about you?”


“Same, my dear.”


My dear? Wow, already, Keren thought. What was this boy up to? An awkward silence fell on them and Keren glanced around, hoping Nadesh wasn’t going to chance upon them and have other thoughts. Keren knew how deeply Nadesh had fallen for Desmond and the jealousy she had over him was even terrifying.


“Um-Desmond,” Keren stood up, dusting her skirt. “I was actually about to leave for the dorm when you came.”


“Keren,” he grabbed her slender arm, “please sit with me.”


Keren declined, throwing a glance over the hill. “I can’t. I have to go. Please let go of my hand.” Her pleas fell on deaf ears.
“Keren, just hear me out.”


“What is it?” she asked and he freed her hand. Desmond stood up and faced a Keren who leaned against the column supporting the roof. He drew closer. “What do you want from me?”


“I want you, Keren-”


“What?!”


“Wait…” he grabbed her arms firmly before she could walk away. “I’m in love with you, Keren.”


Keren shook her head. “I’m sorry. I’m not that type, okay? Moreover, Nadesh is your girlfriend and she is my best friend too.”


“She doesn’t have to know, my love.”


“I’m not interested!” she raised her voice and warned seriously, “If you don’t release my arm, I’m going to scream.”


Desmond had no choice. He allowed her to go and she stormed up the hill, her long ponytail swinging behind her. The prefect couldn’t take his eyes off the gorgeous girl till she disappeared. Frustrated, he punched the column but swore to himself, “I’ll get you, Keren, eventually if not immediately.”


***


True to his word, Desmond kept trying all proven methods to gain Keren’s acceptance of his proposal: letters, gifts, and rendezvous, what have you. But Keren consistently rejected all his advances and even threatened to report the matter to Nadesh. Evidently, Desmond was aware of Keren’s fear which was what Nadesh might think of her should she hear about it. The only person Keren informed was Martin and he advised her to tell a teacher, but Keren hesitated all in the name of saving her friendship with Nadesh.

1 Like

Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:50pm On Jan 21
The pressure carried over to the term afterwards. They were now in the final year and were preparing to write their final exam the next term. This called for more seriousness, something Nadesh had lacked the previous term which had consequently resulted in a dip in her performance. While Keren approached this new term with an eager determination to break her academic records, Nadesh’s expectations, painted a bleak figure. It wasn’t until after several weeks into the new term that she confessed her problem to Keren.


They were walking together from the classroom to the dorm in the moonlight.


The campus was a silent grave aside the sound of their footsteps across the pavement. Keren had urged Nadesh to stay behind after preps and study with her deep into the night as they had an inter-house quiz competition in a few days. She and Nadesh were representing their house.
“Congratulations again on sweeping all the awards,” Nadesh began, referring to the speech and prize giving day occasion that had been held earlier that day. “You couldn’t even save one award for me.”


Keren laughed softly, but Nadesh only smiled. This was unlike her. Usually, she would join her in laughing, but Nadesh hadn’t been looking cheerful for a long time now. “Hey,” Keren shouldered Nadesh, “what’s eating you? Please don’t deny today too.”


“Please don’t tell anyone. It’s Des.”


Keren’s heart almost skipped a beat. She put all the puzzles together in her mind and instantly got the whole picture. “Desmond?” she pretended to be puzzled. “What’s it with him?”


“He has been ignoring me since the last term.”


“Oh, that’s good.”


Nadesh stopped at once. “What?”


“Nadesh,” Keren answered boldly, facing her.


“I have never been in support of this – relationship. It’s already affecting you-”


“Please don’t preach me!” Nadesh snapped angrily. “I thought you were my friend.”


“I am your friend, and that is why I want the best for you. And the best thing for you is to quit this relationship with Desmond and focus on your education.”


“And who says I’m not focused?


“Nadesh, your performance has dropped. This- this is not you. You need to stop it.”
“It’s enough, Keren!” Nadesh almost yelled then sighing, she continued, “Allow me to live my life, okay? I love Des. And I won’t stop loving him.” With that, she walked off, leaving Keren behind.


Now, Keren was even more troubled. So, she was the reason for the drop in Nadesh’s performance. Keren felt very sorry, but she knew there was nothing she could do. Her best friend had drowned so deep in the ocean of love.


***


The fateful day arrived in the space of a camera flash. 13 th May 2000 . Final year students were taking as many photographs as they could afford. Their month-long examinations were due to begin in a week’s time. Keren took one photograph with only Nadesh first before joining other friends and a class photo as well. Then finally, she had the photographer snap one of herself with Nadesh and Martin.


That Saturday’s entertainment night was destined to be great. With the first and second years on vacation, the final years had everything to themselves. The hall was poorly lit on purpose and crowded with students all striving to get upstage and display their dancing skills. Keren watched from her seat and cheered her friends dancing their hearts out to the thumping music from the loudspeakers. It wasn’t that she didn’t know how to dance; Keren was a talented dancer. But no one except her parents knew that. She hated to dance in public.


Keren took a sip from her bottle of coke. “I’m not seeing you, Nadesh!” she yelled out loudly, however, her voice was shrouded in the deafening noise in the hall. Nadesh seemed to have heard her though, for she turned to look at Keren and beckoned her to come over to the stage and dance with them and the boys.


Keren waved “No,” laughing. Suddenly, there was a tap on her shoulder. “There’s someone looking for you outside, Keren,” a boy whispered into her ears. Forgetting her bottle behind, she forced her way through the busy crowd but stopped midway. She had remembered her drink and quickly returned to it.


Keren stepped out of the gate and looked around. A few students were standing in groups of threes and fours and none of them looked like he or she was waiting for her. She sipped her drink from time to time, still watching around. She would have gone back quickly, had it not been the cool breeze outside but after a few minutes, she decided to return. No sooner had she turned around than a voice called her. Turning in the direction of the voice, she spotted Desmond walking up to her from a group of boys.


“Enjoying yourself, Keren?” he said.


“Are you the one looking for me?” she asked as she took another drink.


“Yeah…” he trailed off. “I wanted to apologise for all the harassment if I should put it that way. Please forgive me.”


“Is-” Keren paused, her eyes were forcing shut and she struggled to keep them open.


She rubbed her eyes, “Is that why you called me out? Well, I-” Keren found it hard to remain on her feet. Never in her life had she felt this sleepy so suddenly.

1 Like

Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:56pm On Jan 21
Strange, she thought. “You know what…I have to go now-” Keren almost fell had Desmond not intervened and grabbed her arm, but the drink spilt on him though.


“Sorry,” Keren apologized, her eyes very heavy.


“I think you need to go to bed, Keren,” he suggested, supporting Keren up on her feet with her head on his shoulder.
“The… key…key is… with Nadesh…”


“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll take you there.”

Desmond began leading Keren away from the door and around the building. He had her arms around his neck whiles he wrapped his around her waist, as Keren staggered like she was drunk.


“What did she drink?” a boy walking towards them asked, laughing.


“It’s not easy, my brother.”


Another boy sticking his head out through the window from inside the hall gave Desmond a thumbs up, and Desmond winked back with a grin.


***


“I can’t dance anymore,” Abena said to Nadesh, both of them very sweaty. “I need a break otherwise I’m going to have a heart attack.” Nadesh laughed at her and shoved her away from the stage. She wanted to dance the whole night. No sooner had Abena settled down than she spotted a sight in the window that made her heart flip.


“Keren?” she asked herself softly, approaching the window to have a better look. “Am I dreaming?” Holy cow, you’re such a bitch, Keren. Wasting no time, she forced her way back upstage and whispered into Nadesh’s ears. Nadesh gave her a doubtful glance and shook her head. She resumed her dancing at once, but Abena grabbed her slender arms and dragged her through the crowd and outside the hall.
“If it’s just a prank,” Nadesh warned, as she and Abena walked as fast as they could towards the dormitory, “I will kill you twice!”


***


If Keren had thought in her last conscious moments before entering dreamland that Desmond was taking her to Nadesh’s cabin, she was wrong. Once she was in dreamland, he carried her in his arms and went around the Girl’s dormitory block then down a rocky downhill path towards the Boy’s dormitory.


Just as he expected, the road was deserted and the dormitory ahead was as calm as a morgue. Everyone had trooped to the Assembly hall.


***


“Where are they?” Nadesh asked Abena as they stood on the stairs after checking the dormitories on both floors. “You said they were headed to the dorm. Now, where are they, party spoiler?”


At first, Abena almost surrendered until she spotted Desmond’s white shirt glistening in the darkness at a distance behind Nadesh “I said they were headed in this direction not here,” she spun Nadesh around and pointed to the white figure descending the gentle slope slowly with care. “There they are. Obviously going to do it in his cabin.”


“I don’t believe this,” Nadesh shook her head. “We can’t tell if it’s Keren he is carrying.”


“Let’s stalk them. We can follow them in the darkness behind the hedge,” Abena suggested. “Seeing is believing.”


“Of course. I just hope it’s not Keren.”


***


Desmond was a really strong boy. Not for a second did he stop to rest. He climbed up the stairs of his dormitory block carrying Keren with ease. With great effort, he reached for the keys in his pocket and opened the door of his cabin. Glancing around to make sure no one was watching, Desmond entered and shut the door behind him.


Nadesh broke into tears and cried on Abena’s shoulders as they hid behind the hedge. They had quietly crept behind it along the slope and taken a closer view of who Desmond carried. Abena was exonerated. They watched him climb up the stairs with Keren whom they could tell felt comfortable in the strong arms of Desmond as her long ponytail hanged loose. “Let’s barge into the cabin and give them a surprise,” Abena balled her fist.


“It’s of no use,” Nadesh cried, biting her nail. “Does it look like it’s their first time?! Let’s go.”


***


Martin crept out of the toilet at the backyard of the dormitory. He wondered what he had eaten in the day that caused his running stomach. He clutched his mildly aching tummy as he walked towards the dormitory block. He wished he could get a rest on his soft bed, but he could only hope; the doors were locked. No problem. He would go and lie down on the corridor upstairs. As he trudged up the stairs, he heard a soft sound that gave him hope. It was the sound of a door lock. Someone was obviously upstairs.


The prefect’s cabin was the first door you met once you had climbed the stairs. He took a deep sigh after climbing the stairs and passed by the netted window, about to knock on the door when something caught his eye. Desmond had just taken off his shirt but there was a girl on his bed.

Stealthily, he peered through the window to confirm what he had seen. The room was dark, but Martin could make out the feminine structure on a bed. So, the rumours were true. The school prefect had been sleeping with the female students.


Martin wasn’t going to tolerate any nonsense. “Open the door!” he banged on the door as if to break it down. “Open right now!”


“What do you want?” Desmond came over to the windows and barked furiously.


“I know there’s a girl in there.”


“Which girl?!”

1 Like

Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 2:59pm On Jan 21
“Desmond, don’t make me sound an alarm.”

Desmond sighed and stepped out to talk to Martin outside. “Jack, let’s settle this amicably okay? You don’t want to spoil your man’s night, do you?” Martin gave him a withering look. The prefect was in in his boxers. Without warning, Martin shoved him aside and barged inside to put on the light.
“Keren!” Martin was stunned for a second, but when the sleeping beauty didn’t move an inch, he grew puzzled. He budged her, but she was in the deepest of sleep.


Desmond had come back inside by then, his face full of shame. Martin turned to Desmond with a glare. “What did you do to her?”


Desmond only scrunched his nose and sniffled. “What did you to her?!” Martin grabbed his neck and pinned him to the wall...


“Hey, what’s going on here?!” the senior housemaster suddenly appeared in the doorway. “Goats! So you were the ones who were trying to break down the door, weren’t you?!” The boys stared at him. Desmond looked horrified, praying the senior housemaster would not take another step inside or that Martin wouldn’t give him away. “Ah, I was just checking the girl’s dormitory block when I heard this bam bam sound downhill here. I was under the impression that a burglar was trying to break into your dormitory.”


Desmond stared at the senior housemaster with knees knocking against each other. Just a step inside or a slight sticking of the neck through the door into the cabin and he would find Sleeping Beauty on the bed.


“Now, both of you…,” the bald-headed man stepped inside and gaped at Keren sprawled on the bed. “Herh ! What is a girl doing in your cabin?!”


Desmond covered his face with his palms. “I said, what is she doing here with both of you?!” The senior housemaster slapped Keren on the leg to wake her up but to no avail. Turning to the boys, he asked calmly but firmly, holding back his fury, “Have you sedated her?”


“Sir, it’s him not me,” Martin finally spoke up, pointing to Desmond. The prefect leaned against the wall downcast and arms folded. “I was trying to stop him from raping her.”


“Desmond!” the man clapped. “Is that true?
Is it true, Desmond?!” The prefect’s reply was trapped inside her mouth as the man’s hand flew and landed on Desmond’s cheek.


The force behind the slap hurled him to the ground and Desmond held the side of his face, crying like a child. “Martin,” the senior housemaster turned to him and Martin swallowed hard, wondering if somehow the angry old man had a reason to slap him too.

“Take Keren to my house right now. Can you carry her?”


“Y-Yes sir,” he nodded and lifted the poor girl into his arms. Keren was no small weight and Martin was no Desmond either. “Tell my wife to show you the guest’s room. I will be with you shortly. Let me deal with this dog here.” Martin quickly carried his friend outside and as he carefully descended the stairs, he heard screams of anguish mixed with sounds of slaps. It was no small journey up the hill but Martin endured.


***


The next morning, news about the incident of the previous night at the Boys’ prefect’s cabin had spread like wildfire among the students. The problem was that there were various versions of it. As for Nadesh and Abena, nothing would persuade them to believe any other version of the story than what they had witnessed. By then, Ethel had been informed and that was the topic of discussion that Sunday morning. There were two other girls, friends of Nadesh, gathered around one of the lovers benches positioned around the field. Her friends consoled her as if she had just lost a husband. At the same time, they urged her to revenge.


“What is she saying?” Nadesh asked rhetorically. “She was sedated? Nonsense.


So, she was the one all this while, dating my boyfriend behind my back and advising me to leave him. See, that girl er, I swear, I will pay her back one day in the same manner.”


“I’m with you, girl,” Abena added. “Make her feel the pain.”


Nadesh bowed her head. “I’m so devastated.”


“Oh, here she comes,” said one of the other two girls, turning heads at Keren who walked shyly towards them. “The boyfriend snatcher.”


Keren caught strange glances from nearly every student on her way to the field. It was quite embarrassing for her. She hoped they weren’t thinking anything scandalous.


Arriving at the lover’s bench, she greeted, “Hi everyone.” Just then, all the girls except Nadesh left, some making rude sounds with their teeth and eyeing her as they walked past her. It was troubling.


“Why are they acting this way?” Keren asked, bewildered, taking a seat beside Nadesh who said nothing. “They don’t believe I did something with Desmond, do they?” There was no reply, just a blank stare from Nadesh. “Nadesh,” Keren said and looked into her eyes. “You don’t believe that too, do you?”


“Keren,” Nadesh swallowed, taking Keren’s hands and rubbing it, “you’re my best friend and I believe you even if they don’t.”


Keren was relieved. After a sigh, she embraced Nadesh but she had no idea of the glare on Nadesh’s face during the embrace.

2 Likes

Re: Once Upon A December by jupitre(m): 4:34pm On Jan 21
Seriously.. N adesh is typical of some ladies..
But the wickedness no be here..Some think vengeance is the way forward,but it's more like putting yourself through harm..
Re: Once Upon A December by Adeola25(f): 9:28pm On Jan 21
Hmm, well done Op I so much love your writing prowess. More grease to your elbow.
Re: Once Upon A December by Ann2012(f): 9:58pm On Jan 21
Kiddogarcia:
Martins soon the comment and applaud will start rolling in,don't get tired with the constant update. ann2012 is not here,wonders shall never cease.

I'm here, not missing it at all
Re: Once Upon A December by Kiddogarcia(m): 10:17pm On Jan 21
Ann2012:


I'm here, not missing it at all
I for say maybe op don offend you before. but is strange tho, you are almost on every literature thread on nl

1 Like

Re: Once Upon A December by BLUELemon(m): 11:36pm On Jan 21
...you are on your own Josipov
Re: Once Upon A December by Josipov: 7:42am On Jan 22
Op
Next update please
Re: Once Upon A December by jupitre(m): 8:32am On Jan 22
Update ooo
Re: Once Upon A December by Ann2012(f): 9:13am On Jan 22
Kiddogarcia:
I for say maybe op don offend you before. but is strange tho, you are almost on every literature thread on nl

grin
Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 12:24pm On Jan 22
***


Martin showed the photo to David as the two were bent over the rails of the restaurant overlooking the Takoradi harbour several feet below and the ocean not far away. David took it slowly from him and stared at the image of a trio of Nadesh, Keren and Martin with Keren smiling the broadest. David smiled faintly, studying Keren’s image closely.


After about a minute of silence, David exhaled deeply. “So, Nadesh believes Keren stole her boyfriend. That’s why she wants to take me away from her. I get it now.”


“I learnt from the girls about Nadesh’s thirst for revenge and I tried speaking to her, but she never believed the truth. She assured me that she wasn’t going to revenge because Keren was her best friend. For years, I believed her…till now.”


David nodded and turned to look at the ocean. “I’m sure you’re waiting to hear our little love story, huh?”


Martin smiled faintly with a nod and David turned to him. “Let me tell you.”


Chapter thirteen


The sudden tap on his arm wickedly ended his sweet dream in which his shop owner was commending him for paying his rent on time. His weary eyes fluttered open and his blurred vision gradually sharpened. David was back to reality and that included his unpaid rent. But, on the bright side, coming back to reality included the sight of beholding perhaps the most gorgeous girl ever, staring at him patiently.


“I’m sorry,” he sniffled and rose up from the chair, rubbing an eye frantically. “Boy, sit down.” A little boy who had come into the barbering shop with the pretty lady plonked into the seat before the large rectangular dressing mirror. The young woman sat gracefully on the wooden bench behind them. She looked breath-takingly beautiful in her bright yellow blouse and blue jeans.


She took off her baseball cap and put her hands on her laps while her long black hair rested on her shoulders.


It had been a rather dry day for the young barber. Life in the city of Accra had gotten off to a poor start for David. The month was rapidly approaching its end and David hadn’t earned enough to pay his shop rent. Alhaji Alhassan was a master timekeeper. The old man would be waiting by the shop very early in the morning on the first day of the coming month with a new padlock if David hadn’t paid his rent by then. That was a certainty.


The man had locked the store already on three occasions when David couldn’t pay his rent on time, resulting each time in David losing his customers.


The neighbourhood where his shop was located was usually a quiet one except for the occasional bleating of sheep and goats who were likely returning home after a long day. Inside the small shop, it was almost dead silent, the snipping sounds of the scissors invading the little boy’s hair being perhaps the only sound. With the mirror behind him and standing in front of the boy, David then switched to a combination of a comb and a razor blade. That was when he caught a glance of the lady staring at him.


David’s heart flipped backwards and forwards. The young barber didn’t feel comfortable when ladies set their eyes on him. He forced himself not to glance at her again. He failed and did again moments later. Her eyes were still fixed on him, and this time, there was a ghost of a smile lurking around her lips. David tried hard to focus on his work and didn’t glance at her again throughout the rest of the haircut, which didn’t take too long to end. As David took off the cape from the boy, the lady approached him with a currency note.


“Keep the change,” she said with a slight smile before David could utter a word. The little boy moved and stood next to her and she took his hand.


“Thank you,” David forced a grin, cleaning off hair from the comb.


“I don’t know but…,” she paused and looked around. Then she continued in a rather soft tone, “It seems you get pretty lonely here at times.”

David giggled lamely. “Erm…at times.”


The lady nodded with a tight-lipped smile and hid her other hand in her pocket. “Must be boring. I know how it feels. You could do with a little company; don’t you think? Instead of sleeping in which case you can get robbed.”


The two chortled and David said, “I have a friend who comes over, but these days, he rarely shows up. He got a job so…I can’t blame him.”


“Sure, you can’t,” she giggled. An awkward silence set in, leaving both of them staring at each other. Even the little boy wondered who was going to speak next. “Anyway,” she inhaled deeply, “I also kind of get bored at home a lot and for that reason, I’m always visiting friends. So, I was wondering; if you don’t mind…I could come around.”


“That’s fine,” the words flew out of his mouth with a careless shrug. The lady’s face lit up brightly, and what a beautiful broad smile David saw!


“Really? Thanks,” she grinned, her sparkling white teeth on full display. “Will come by tomorrow, then.”

1 Like

Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 12:27pm On Jan 22
David clasped his hands with a reassuring smile. “No, problem.”


“Name is Keren,” she thrust out her hand at him.


“David,” he shook her hand briefly. David could swear he felt his fingers tingle when he felt how soft her hands were in his hardened palms.


She nodded and tightened her grip on her little friend’s hand, getting ready to leave. “Nice meeting you, David. See you tomorrow.” She waved.


“Bye,” David returned the wave as Keren stepped out of the shop with the little boy.


David spotted her cap lying on the bench and quickly reached for it. “Keren!” he called out, frozen in the doorway at the sight he beheld. He had just seen the sparkling red convertible parked outside. Keren had opened the door when David called, holding up her baseball cap.


“Oh dear me,” she shook her head and walked over to him. When she came over, David did something he never believed he had the courage to do. It was a simple move but it surely affected her. David didn’t hand her the cap, he wore it on her head and added, “Nice hair…my friend.”


“Thanks,” she grinned and for the brief moment followed; they stared at each other without another word.


“Alright,” David finally spoke up, unable to hold her gaze any longer. “Enjoy your evening.”


“Same to you, David,” she adjusted her cap and walking backwards, she kept waving.

He gave the final wave as she drove away.


He sighed heavily and went back inside. It was getting dark outside. David switched on the only bulb in the shop and sat in the single chair before the mirror, thinking about his new friend. She seemed to be very rich, but it was her friendly attitude towards him- a poor guy like him-that impressed David.
He examined his appearance in the mirror, wondering what about him that attracted this epitome of beauty. Whatever the case, it seemed Keren would be a good friend. David shrugged. Soon, he went back to thinking about Alhaji Alhassan’s padlock.


***


Keren did come by the following day as she had promised, and for the weeks that followed, a day didn’t pass by without her coming to David’s shop. At first, she didn’t spend much time there, but as the days turned to weeks, her visits became longer. Soon, Keren came very early in the morning and left only when David was closing up. At times, she even insisted on driving him home though his house wasn’t far from the shop.


Keren was right. David did indeed need company. Her presence ended his boring working hours. The two talked and laughed about their lives and experiences with Keren getting to know more about David’s past than vice versa. He soon found out much about her personality. Though he discerned she was from a wealthy background, Keren didn’t show any hints of looking down upon him. She was different from most of the people he knew who were from rich families.


Keren’s visits did bring him some unexpected benefits. Aside from bringing him home-prepared breakfast and buying him lunch – something David was uncomfortable with initially – somehow, the number of customers soared. It baffled him at first but after some thoughts, he got the point! Keren’s beauty had become a site of attraction and David reaped the benefits.

Men who in the past didn’t patronise David’s services were now coming by to at least have a look at the barber’s rich girlfriend. Yes, that was what they thought And since Keren always stayed inside the shop with David, men who wanted to make advances at her hesitated.


David didn’t like the idea of a girl helping him out financially even if she was a close friend. But he needed help and so when Keren suggested she pay his shop rent for a full year, he had no choice. At last, he wouldn’t see Alhaji Alhassan’s huge padlock in a long while. All these benefits he received left David thinking if he could give Keren what she wanted.


David didn’t need a master’s degree in relationships to know that Keren was already into him. The writings were evident on the wall. And that worried him. David liked the girl very much; she was just a breath of fresh air, a very good person. His very good friend – that was all he felt for her. Thus, he feared he might disappoint her.


Being at age 22, he thought he wasn’t ready to be in a relationship with a woman that would lead to marriage. Moreover, he felt his source of income wasn’t enough to raise a family. Yes, Keren was rich, but the idea of being a husband who depended on his wife to shoulder the family’s finances didn’t sit too well with him.


***


One afternoon, as David gave a customer a cut, Keren’s cell phone rang. It was her mother. As she spoke on the phone, a man who was seated beside her waiting for his turn took the opportunity to shoot glances at Keren from all sides. A glare from David was enough to put his eyes at bay.


“Mum, I am at a friend’s place,” Keren explained.


“Which friend?Look, I’m giving you up to 20 minutes to come home. Henry is here and I don’t want you to keep him waiting .

1 Like

Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 12:38pm On Jan 22
Keren wriggled in her seat, pursing her lips.


David glanced at her and discerned all was not well. Keren’s next words made David curious because of the language she switched to. Keren hadn’t told him about her ethnicity.


“Mum, as for me, I’m not interested in seeing him o,” she whined in the strange language. “Tell him to go and come next time.”


“Herh, young woman, if I don’t see your face in the next 19 minutes, I’ll make sure you never go out of the house again. You heard me, right? Don’t test me.”


David didn’t like the frown on her face when she hung up the call. “Any problem?”


“My mum needs me home right now,” she said sadly, getting up to leave. “Will be back soon, okay?”


“So which language was that?” David asked when she got to the doorway.


“Oh, that’s Nzema,” she said and smiled. “Would you want me to teach you?”


“Let me get a grip on the Ga first,” David said, shaping the hairlines of his customer.


“I was just wondering how long you were going to take to tell me that you are an Nzema. What else have you not told me about you?”


“I will tell you everything else next time,” she said quickly. “I have to go now.” With that, she left the shop and drove away.


“John,” the man on the bench called out to David, “Your woman is fine er.”

David gave him a fleeting glance. “Thanks.”


***


He was the dream man of many women. Tall, dark, handsome and rich, not forgetting those conspicuous six packs and muscular arms. Henry Frimpong. The young man slouched in the sofa in the living room, glancing at his golden wrist watch every now and then. Rage surged through his veins like hot blood. How could she keep him waiting for this long? He sat up and glanced at his watch again; it was now 45 minutes since Keren’s mother had said Keren was on her way. Making a rude sound with his teeth in annoyance, he grabbed the TV remote and changed the channel.


Aya came to the living room from the kitchen, wiping her hands with a cloth. “She hasn’t shown up?”


“No, Ma,” he replied, repeating that rude sound with his teeth again.


“Hmm this girl,” Aya stopped in the centre of the living room. “Her father has pampered her from birth and that’s the reason behind her swollen-headedness. Just be a little patient, my son.”


Henry motioned an okay, his eyes on the show on TV. Immediately, a car beeped outside the gate and the gateman rushed to open up. All heads turned to the glass window as a red convertible drove in and parked beside a black BMW.


“I gave her 20 minutes.”


“It’s now 45,” Henry added and then asked as the two watched Keren walk towards the door, “where does she always go?”


“She says friends,” Aya answered and Henry narrowed his eyes, thinking.


Keren trudged inside as if she had just climbed up Everest and walked over to her mother, acting as if Henry didn’t exist.


“Boni a yε wɔ a? Didn’t you see Henry?” Aya snapped at once and Keren shot him a glance. “Where are your manners, Avola? You have changed o.”


“Hi, Henry,” Keren spun and gave him a fake smile.


“Hello, dear,” the young man said with a straight face, not buying Keren’s smile.

“How’s your day going, honey?”


Taking a deep sigh, Keren firmly stated with narrowed eyes, “Do you mind not calling me your honey?”


“Herh,” Aya slapped Keren’s shoulder and whispered to her in Nzema, “What is wrong with you? This fine boy.”


“Mother, please, for once, let me make my own choice, okay?” she whispered back.


Henry watched the two speaking in hushed tones. He wasn’t worried. He had experience in handling girls like Keren. He didn’t know what it was that Aya said but suddenly Keren started storming away towards the spiral staircase.


“So, you’re walking out on me!” Aya wagged a finger at her only child. “Is that how I trained you? There is a visitor here to see you and you don’t even care to see him.”


Keren stopped after taking two steps on the stairs and turned around. “Mr Frimpong,” she addressed Henry who stared at her mischievously. “I’m really sorry for not attending to you. I’m feeling so sleepy and badly need a rest. However, I have one advice for you; please don’t waste your time on me, okay?”


“Avola!” Aya stomped a foot, but Keren was already flying upstairs. “Come back here now!”


“Mommy,” Henry called, rising to leave. Aya was at the foot of the stairs when he saw Henry getting up from his seat.


“Oh, my son,” she went over to him, pleading. “Please forgive her. Hmm, I don’t know what is happening to my child. She isn’t like this, but for the past few months, Keren has changed completely.”


“Mummy, don’t worry,” Henry said softly with a smile at the corner, “I know what to do.”


Aya sighed, feeling embarrassed. “Food is almost ready,” she said gently, “why don’t you wait for lunch?”


“No, thanks,” he said and took his leave.


“Has your mother returned from the States?” Aya asked when Henry opened the door.


“Yes, mommy.”


“My greetings to her and your father. Don’t worry about it, okay? Keren is yours.”

1 Like

Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 12:45pm On Jan 22
Immediately Henry went outside and entered his car, Aya turned and stormed across the hall, heading to the stairs with heavy footsteps. “Avola! Avola! Had it not been your sickness, I would have roasted you today.”


***


To own a cell phone was a far-fetched dream for most people. Anyone seen with a cell phone was considered affluent. Such was the popular culture at the time. David was therefore treated to a huge surprise that morning, when Keren came around and presented him with a brand new cell phone she had bought the previous day. Having a cell phone was obviously going to lift David’s social status among his friends.


They were alone in the shop when she surprised him with the present.


“Keren….” David trailed off, short of words as they sat together on the bench.


“You like it?” the beautiful rich girl asked with the broadest of smiles, evidently glad that David loved it.


“Sure… I …” David shook his head lightly. “Didn’t it cost you a fortune? I mean this is expensive.”


Keren sucked her teeth. “It isn’t, okay? Don’t worry at all about it. I’ve already activated it with a Sim card so I hope we can call each other now.” She smiled.


David took a deep breath. “Sure.”


Keren smiled again at him. David saw it in her eyes; the young lady was anticipating a move from him. It wasn’t enough to only say “Thanks.” He knew the girl wanted more than that. But David couldn’t. He hadn’t developed that love Keren already had for him and that saddened him. He feared he might end up disappointing her.


“Keren,” David put the package under the bench and took Keren’s hands. He looked straight at her gorgeous eyes. “I want us to dis-”


His words were cut short by the sound of Keren’s phone ringing. “Hang on,” she said to him and quickly answered the call.


During the call, David noticed her expression had suddenly changed. She sounded discouraged and unhappy. David guessed her parents had asked her to return home.


“David, I have to go,” she got up quickly. “But I will call you, okay?”


David agreed with a nod. He expected Keren to walk out immediately, but she stood there briefly, looking at him as if she was waiting for him to do something.


“Um…talk to you later,” she said and waved.


On her way out, she almost bumped into a young bearded man of about David’s age who was also entering the shop. The young man gaped as Keren sat in her car and zoomed off. He was astonished.


“Ras Kpei!” David jumped to his feet in pleasant surprise.


“Davido!”


The two men gave themselves a loud handshake and a hug that lasted for a while.


“Where have you been?” exclaimed David, scanning his friend’s usual outfit; tattered jeans shorts, a basketball jersey, a cap and dirty sneakers. “There were rumours that you had travelled to Vietnam.”


“Iraq,” Ras joked and both men threw their heads back and roared hilariously.


They settled down on the bench. “But
chale , I miss you pass. Where did you go to work?”


“Oh, it’s a long story,” Ras gave a dismissive wave of the hand, took off his cap and started to fan himself. Then leaning towards David, he asked in a low tone, “Have you been running a hairdressing salon lately?”


At first, David was puzzled. But within moments, he got it. “Ah! Ras! You see you have a bad mind.”


Ras had this cunning smile lurking at the corner of his dark lips.


“She’s just a friend, okay.”


“Ei, David!” Ras exclaimed, leaning backwards. “I underestimated you. Herh! I salute you, King David!” Ras rose up and shot David a salute.


“Sit down,” David giggled and pulled him back to his seat. “What’s your problem? I said she’s just a friend, okay?”


“Massa, I don’t care whether she’s your cook or your lawyer. The point is that you have broken a world record.”


“Which is?” David wondered.


“For being the only poor barber to beat several hundreds of rich boys to win the golden girl. Do you have any idea whose child she is or the number of squad wars being fought over her as we speak?”


David grew worried, shifting uneasily in his seat. “What are you talking about?”


“Hmmph!” Ras placed his cap beside him and said, “I know that girl o. Keren? I know her very well. I mean which guy in East Legon doesn’t know her? Ah, remember I told you my brother lives at East Legon.”
David nodded, listening attentively.


“So, during the weekends, I visit his family so that my three square meals are taken care of for the weekend. You know how tough the ecosystem is these days.”


David nodded lightly with a wry smile.


“So, I see her every time. My brother’s house is directly opposite theirs. Chale, you should see their house; a big mansion-”


“Ras, Ras, Ras. What is your point? I know she’s rich.”


“See this naïve razor bearer,” Ras gave him a scornful look. “He won’t listen. Massa, you should see the number of cars that enter that house from morning till evening as if there is some sort of free maintenance being offered within their walls. It’s not easy o. Rich boys! Sometimes, they even fight at the gate. Meanwhile, a student of mine down here, having applied my teachings, has already won the girl hands down.


Congratulations.” Ras gave David’s arm a fist bump.

1 Like

Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 1:10pm On Jan 22
David went speechless, rubbing his neck.

“But,” Ras sat up. “There is this one guy er.


He comes there with a new car every time.
And he seems to have some…protocol because he is always allowed inside while the refugees battle it out with the gateman.” Ras placed a hand on David’s shoulder.


“Massa, you should see his muscles. Herh! It’s not a joke. I always shiver anytime I see him. Should he grab you one day er, the way he is going to break you.”


“Ei Ras, you’re scaring me o,” David admitted, holding his own neck.


“I’m not kidding. So chale, you for look sharp and sign up at the gym.”


David tried laughing but it was dry. He indeed was scared of what he had just heard. Ras always exaggerated matters and David earnestly hoped this was one of them.


“But I hope you have been milking her?” Ras asked leaving David perplexed and wondering what milking his friend alluded to. Ras realised his confusion and gestured cash with his fingers, rubbing his thumb against his index finger.


David gave him a dirty look. “See, she is my friend and I have her best interests at heart; why would I want to exploit her? Moreover, she has been so generous with me already. I should be thinking of a way to show kindness in return instead of thinking of how to milk her.”


Ras looked upwards and shook his head in disbelief whispering, “God, please, open his eyes.” Then he turned to David and gestured indignantly, “You’re a big fool! This rich girl? You should have started building a mansion by now and driving a BMW as well.” Ras then mimicked David words scornfully in a feminine voice, “ I should be thinking of a way to show kindness in return. Man, which type of kindness do you have to show Keren that she hasn’t seen before? Stop the garbage you’re spewing out this morning.


It’s making me feel like vomiting.”


David folded arms and looked blankly at him as Ras preached on, wrapping an arm around David’s shoulder. “Man, the girl’s father has more than enough money to make a hundred of us rich. From hotels to estates to trucks, the man owns them all. I haven’t even mentioned his company. Just extract coins from her. It won’t affect their wealth in any way. You see that Mr Ghana guy I just mentioned, he is going to break you when he catches you with Keren, and you will need money to buy painkillers after he deals with you o, so be smart.”


“Ras, Ras,” David wasn’t buying into his advice. “See, forget about it. I’m not taking anything from her. And nobody is going to beat me because we are not dating.”


“Yoo,” Ras raised hands in mock surrender. “Ras, keep quiet.”


David gave him a nudge on the shoulder. He had wanted to show him the phone Keren had bought him but he feared it might resurrect the conversation he just killed.


“Chale , any chow?” Ras clutched his tummy. “I haven’t eaten since Sunday.”


“Hungry lion,” David rose and pulled Ras up to his feet. “Let’s go get some porridge.”


***


Later that evening, after having spoken with David on the phone, Keren enjoyed some music with her player in her bedroom.


Sitting on her bed with earplugs in her ears, she closed her eyes and rocked her slender
body from side to side. Due to the loud music banging in her ears, she didn’t hear her parents enter her room.


She opened her eyes seconds later and before her, were her mother and father looking down at her. They said they had something to discuss with her. Keren knew at once what the topic of discussion was and she quickly prepared an escape.


Her father started, sitting on the edge of the bed. “Your mother and I have noticed that of late, you have not been staying at home.”


“Dad,” Keren wouldn’t let Ackah finish, “Have I ever been staying at home? I’m always out. You know I’m not the indoor type.”


“That-that attitude,” Aya got furious. “Where she won’t let you finish what you want to say. Avola, nea ε nwo boε. Where have you been going to?”


Keren looked at her mother, baffled. “But I told you I’ve been visiting friends-”

“Which friends? Name them.”


“Mum, my list of friends is a very long one. If I am to mention their names, we won’t sleep today and Dad here needs a rest badly. Or Dad?”


Ackah smiled lightly at her daughter’s play.

“Look, my dear,” he addressed her in his usual gentle manner, “we are very concerned about you. Accra can be a very dangerous place if you’re not careful. Just tell us the truth. Which friend have you been paying these visits to that keeps you so long from home?”


Keren exhaled in despair and grabbed a pillow onto her laps. “I’m not saying anymore. Mum, Dad, I think this is where I say goodnight. My eyes are heavy.” With that Keren fell backwards like a tree on the bed and shut her eyes.


“Da boε. You sleep well,” Aya said sarcastically, rising up. “Sleep, okay? But if I find out that it’s what I’m suspecting, I will send you to your grandmother in Esiama.”
“That’d be great, Mum,” Keren riposted, making her father giggle. “I miss my granny.”


“She’s even making fun of it!” Aya couldn’t resist the urge to give a dirty slap on Keren’s thigh. Keren groaned, faking a cry like a child.


“Oh let her be,” Ackah shoved Aya gently towards the door whiles he covered Keren’s legs with her blanket.

1 Like

Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 1:22pm On Jan 22
“Spoil her, okay? ” Aya protested, but Ackah ignored his wife and went ahead to plant a goodnight kiss on Keren’s cheek much to the young lady’s delight. He put out her light on their way out.


“Ackah, I’m not comfortable with Keren staying out long,” Aya voiced her concern on their way to their room. “I fear she may have fallen prey to some street boys.”


“I know she is lying about visiting friends,” Ackah said. “It’s a friend, not friends. Likely a boy. I just hope like you said it’s not one of these rascals.”

“Hmm…”


They got to their door and Ackah, before turning the knob, remarked, “But looking on the bright side, her condition has stabilised ever since she began visiting
her friends. Keren seems happier and healthier.”


“So she should go on staying out till midnight.”


“I didn’t say that,” Ackah still held onto the knob. “But isn’t our daughter’s happiness our greatest concern? We don’t want her growing anxious or falling into any depression. She’s the only one we have.”


“Just open the door and let me go to bed. I’m feeling sleepy, so I can’t think straight.

Tomorrow, we will discuss this better.”


***


David knew it was just a matter of time. He had been turning down her invitations.


However, he simply couldn’t stand Keren’s persuasiveness. Keren had him close up the shop around midday and drive him to her home. She likely had no idea about the possible frightening scenarios playing out in David’s mind on their way to her house.


It was David’s first time in East Legon. The boy barely looked ahead as he didn’t want to miss any of the beautiful buildings on both sides of the road. He concluded that only rich people lived here. Then, after about twenty minutes of driving, Keren slowed down and stopped in front of a gate. Ras was right; the mansion was a great one. But he hadn’t seen anything yet.


As the gate opened and Keren drove inside the yard, David spotted this strange look on the security man’s face that sent shivers down his spine. Something was clearly wrong. David didn’t feel at ease after that, though he tried really hard to hide it.


Once they stepped out of her car, she took his hand and led him into the house. David had only a quick view of the beauty of the compound; the neatly trimmed hedges, a variety of flowers, the sea-blue pool over which a mini bridge led to a summer hut and the magnificent artificial fountain. A quick glance at the far left revealed a garage of six sparkling cars. David wondered why then Keren stuck with her red convertible when there were several others available.


As she unlocked the glass door, David dreaded meeting her parents. What would be their reaction if their only child came home with a poor boy like him? “Welcome to my lovely abode,” Keren smiled, spreading her arms out. David gaped at the sight. The hall was nothing short of glamorous. The place was large and sparkling and it was winter inside. Wow . He stood at the centre of the hall, his eyes revolving around.


“You love my home?” Keren asked, looking at him as she stood beside him.


David was short of words. “It’s…it’s magnificent!”


“Yeah,” Keren said. “And only three people live here.”


David looked at her and voiced his fear. “What if your parents come and see me here?”


Keren raised her shoulders and spread her palms. “What’s wrong with that? You’re my friend, and my friends come over all the time. Stop worrying.”


“Hmm…” David sighed, partially relieved. “If you say so.”


Keren stood before him and rubbing his arms, she asked softly with a smile curling up, “For now, I want you to sit down and feel at home. I’m going to the kitchen to bring you lunch. Then after that-”


“I’m going home,” he cut in and she chuckled.


“Funny you. Please, stay with me a little longer, okay? And don’t worry about my parents, they don’t bite. Come.” Taking his hand, she led him over to the dining table.


As Keren left to bring him food, David wondered why there were no maids at their service like many other rich families.


Lunch was served in a jiffy. Keren didn’t have anything for lunch; she just watched him eat like a mother watching her child eat.


The meal was a delicious one but David couldn’t enjoy it as much as he would have if he were to eat it in his room back home.

To avoid hurting her feelings, he managed to finish what was served to him.


“Let me get you some more,” she got up, but he grabbed her arm.


“It’s okay.”


“Are you sure?” she asked with an uncertain face. “There’s more. What are you shy of?”


David wiped his mouth. “I’m not shy. I am filled. But what-a-meal. I don’t think I will be eating another like this for a long time.”


Keren giggled, packing the cutlery and plates onto a tray. “My mother is a world class cook,” she winked at him.


David gave her a thumbs up. “Tell her a nutritionist says she passed with flying colours.”

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Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 1:27pm On Jan 22
Keren laughed as she made her way to the kitchen. David was relieved Keren’s parents hadn’t arrived yet. He simply couldn’t wait to leave the house when Keren returned. So he thought. But Keren being Keren had other ideas though.


David got up when she came from the kitchen. “Thanks for the meal and everything, Keren, but I have to go.”


“Why?” she asked, looking surprised as she picked up a remote control lying on the coffee table at the centre of the hall. “You just came. You’re not going anywhere.” She pointed the remote at the home theatre set and Marc Anthony’s I Need You started playing. The sound seemed to be from all corners of the room and it was saccharine sweet. David found himself looking around, so distracted searching for the hidden speakers, that he didn’t spot Keren come to stand right before him.


She took hold of his hands. “Do you know how to dance?” Keren asked in a voice just above a whisper with a flirty smile. “Let me teach you.”


David dropped his shoulders. “Oh Keren, come on. I have to go.”


The girl wasn’t going to buy that. She wrapped arms around his neck. “Let’s dance.”


***


Earlier on, Henry had come over to Keren’s house to see if she was around but as the norm lately, she wasn’t. Aya had plans to buy some groceries from town and Henry offered her a lift to and fro. It was on their way back from the market that Henry revealed his latest findings to Keren’s mother. After learning from Keren’s friends that she hadn’t been visiting them of late, the desperate young man had tracked Keren and found out where she had been spending her day.


“A what?!” Aya exclaimed in disbelief, clutching the paper bag on his laps with her jaw sagging.


“A barber, Ma, a filthy barber in a filthy shack.”


Aya felt a surge of fury searing through her veins. She sat quietly with a clenched jaw and tightened lips, looking straight ahead.


“I just don’t understand Keren,” Henry admitted few metres to the house. “What at all does she see in that street rat?”


“Don’t worry,” Aya double tapped Henry’s thigh. “Let me just drop this bag inside the house and then you will take me to that barber or whatever he is.” The four-wheel drive pulled up before the gate and Aya quickly alighted, rushing towards the gate and snapping impatiently at the security man to open the gate for her. While Henry waited in his car outside, he was glad that finally, things seemed to be heading in the right direction. Once Keren’s mother eliminates the street rat from the scene, Keren won’t have anywhere else to run to than into his arms.


It wasn’t long after Aya entered through the gate that a phone started ringing in the car. It was her phone and Henry quickly grabbed it and chased after the angry woman. Aya was halfway across the compound when Henry came running from behind with her cell phone. The young man was surprised to see Keren’s car parked in the yard.


“Hello,” she said, handing over the bag to Henry as they approached the door. The call had dropped abruptly.


“I think Keren’s home,” Henry observed.
“That’s even better,” Aya quickened her strides. “I’ll let her take me to the boy.”


Had it not been for the curtains, maybe David would have spotted through the window that Aya and Henry were approaching the door. The barber’s back faced the door as Keren, still holding his hand, swayed him from side to side slowly while the love song played.


The glass door swung open under the strength of Aya’s powerful arm. “ Herh !” the woman slapped a hand to her chest as the two dancers jumped apart in fright. “What is going on in my house?!”



“Mum!” Keren clutched her chest with one hand while the other held onto David’s trembling hand. “You scared me. Ah! Do you want to kill me?”


Aya gaped at the two, her fiery eyes darting from Keren to David and back. “Avola, nwane ε? Who-is-this?”


Keren gave David a sideway glance. “He’s my friend.”



Henry dropped the bag onto the sofa and folding his arms, he set his glaring gaze on the shuddering David. David at once knew this was the man Ras had spoken about.
Without a doubt, this guy could literally break him in two. David swallowed.


“And your personal barber erh?” Aya nodded scornfully, closing the gap between her and the two. Keren looked baffled at what her mother had just said. She wondered how her mother got to know about David. “So, Avola, this,” Aya gave David a withering stare, “this thing , is the reason you have not been staying at home. This garbage-born rat is the reason you are ignoring Henry.”


“Mum,” Keren scowled at her mother and warned harshly with a pointing finger, “Stop talking about David like that.”


“You see,” she said to David, acting like a mother lamenting over her child, “You see, young man. You see how you have influenced my own daughter to disrespect me. My own daughter is pointing the finger at me, Mr Barber!”


“Mum,” Keren jumped in. “Leave David out of this.”


“Shut your mouth !” Aya snapped in Nzema. Then she turned to David. He would never forget that look on Aya’s face when she warned him to stay away from her daughter.

“Mr Barber-”

“His name is David,” Keren cut in at once.

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Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 1:35pm On Jan 22
“Will you let your mother speak?” Henry came in with his deep commanding voice.


“And will you stay out of my life?!” Keren wagged a finger at him.


Aya continued, approaching David who slowly retreated backwards, “Young man, let this stick in your coconut; the next time I see you with my daughter anywhere, mark my words, I will make sure you spend the rest of your pathetic life rotting in the dark cells at Nsawam Prisons. Try me.”


“I’m sorry, Aunty,” David pleaded calmly, his fearful eyes darting from Aya to Henry.


“Now leave!” the woman yelled and David made his move only for Keren to grab his hand.


“Keren, please,” David implored, “let me go. I beg you in the name of God.” Keren was reluctant but as David pleaded on, her grip loosened. She felt sorry for him. David looked so humiliated and fear-stricken.


“I’m sorry,” Keren said to him as David cautiously walked past Henry as if going past a sleeping lioness. “I’ll call you!”


“You’re not calling anyone!” her mother grabbed Keren’s arm and said firmly but in a low tone, “Ah, Avola. This thing. Have you lost your mind?”


Keren pulled her arm free and said to her mother’s face, “I love him and that’s it!” Immediately, she turned and hurried upstairs.


“You think he loves you,” Aya called out after her. “He just wants your money.”


Henry plonked down into the couch and rubbed his temples, trying to figure out how to turn Keren’s head. Aya came and sat beside him. “Don’t worry,” she said comfortingly, placing a hand on his shoulder. “She will give up in no time and will be yours before you know it. Just give it time.”


Henry exhaled and leaned forward, punching his palm with his fist.


***


David went straight home and stayed right there. He couldn’t go back to the shop.


There were matters he had to address. Lying bare-chested on his slim mattress in his small hot room, he thought hard about how to handle the situation at hand.


Keren was deeply into him. He knew that.


The problem was, he wasn’t sure he felt the same for her and David didn’t understand why. Aside her beauty, the young woman had good qualities any sane man would look out for in a woman. He hadn’t developed any romantic feelings for her yet though he liked her very much.


David sighed and dropped the shirt he fanned himself with. Maybe it was a good thing he hadn’t fallen for her. Their relationship was already heading downhill.


Not that it didn’t hurt him to see that their friendship was about to end but it would have been heartbreaking if he had fallen in love with her. Keren’s parents seemingly didn’t approve of their friendship and as he had witnessed, Keren was disrespectful to them in her attempts to defend him. David didn’t want that. He would never forgive himself if their friendship jeopardised Keren’s relationship with her mother.


He would talk face to face with Keren the next day instead of speaking on the phone.


David was certain Keren would defy her mother and still visit him. It was time to clarify things with her before they got too far. He knew he would be guilty if Keren got hurt on discovering the reality of his feelings for her. He shouldn’t have given her so much hope.


***


Later in the evening, David went out to get some food. On his return, he giggled when he found himself humming the tune of the song Keren had played earlier at her house.


David’s home was a room in an uncompleted building standing aloof from his nearest neighbours. A dark, narrow and weedy path flanked by several other uncompleted buildings led to his home.


On arriving at the building, he quickly entered his room. He put on the flickering light bulb but dared not open the window. The risk of a legion of mosquitoes invading his room was too high to take. He had no sooner dropped his packaged dinner on his mattress when someone banged on his door from the darkness outside.


“Hey, hey, take it easy,” David moved towards the door as the banging intensified.

“Who’s there?” He half-opened the door after asking only to have the door kicked so hard against him that he was left toppling backwards and struggling to remain on his feet.


They stormed in – two thugs in dark shades – and descended on him, pinning him to the bed, punching and kicking him at all angles.

“Please,” David pleaded with blood spluttering from his mouth, “I-I have no money. Plea- Please, have mercy-”


“Shut up!” one of the men stomped a foot on his mouth, bursting David’s lips.


“Somebody help!” David yelled as the beatings continued. “They are killing me!”


“Not yet,” said a new voice. Another man had just entered and he motioned the other two to take a break. David forced to look up from the bed, panting heavily. He knew that face. He had seen him hours ago.


“I haven’t started killing you yet,” Henry approached him and stooped over David.


“When I’m through with you, boy, you will regret the day you met Keren.” David’s heart raced faster than a Bugatti. He feared Henry might truly kill him. His eyes were full of murderous intent.


“Stay away from my woman,” he pointed a finger at David and David nodded earnestly. “Is that clear!”

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Re: Once Upon A December by martins18(m): 1:39pm On Jan 22
“Y-Y-Yes boss,” David trembled like he had caught a fever.


Henry straightened up with his jaw clenched tight. Looking at his two thugs, he motioned at them with his head. In a flash, the two thugs grabbed one arm each of David and hauled him up to his wobbling feet. David’s cell phone slipped out of his pocket in the process. One of the thugs immediately stomped his heavy boot on the phone as Henry balled his fists.


“Please…” David uttered feebly as Henry prepared to deliver the final blow. David saw Henry inch closer and throw a punch towards his face. A sharp pain followed and he dropped to his knees. Blood oozed from his nostril, eyebrow and his lips. Henry and his thugs walked out with no sign of remorse leaving David clinging on to dear life.


***


The sky threatened a heavy downpour by midday on Saturday. The weather was chilly and the clouds rumbled. A red car pulled up beside a barbering shop and a long-haired lady stepped out; so much for her attending a so-called youth programme. Thankfully, FBI Aya was not home. She walked over to the door and checked; it was locked. She returned to her car and sat on the bonnet to make a phone call. Frustrated that the call didn’t go through, she slapped a hand on the hood. After hanging around her car for a little while, she drove away.


***


Thankfully, Ras had arrived upon an unconscious David the previous night with the intent of coming over for supper if any. He quickly rushed him to the nearest health facility and got David stitched up. By the next day, David was relatively better though he still limped on a leg and his face was severely patched up with plasters and stitches. Ras had proven to be a friend born in a time of distress, but the hustler simply wouldn’t stop reminding David about what he had said some time ago.


“You see what happens when you ignore the words of the man of God?” Ras said to him.


They were in the room as the wind howled outside. Ras sat on a plastic chair – the only chair- beside the wall while David lay on his mattress, his face covered with a hand.


“I told you so,” Ras pointed out, “now you see how foolish you look, like some injured soldier deserted by his government.”


“Prophet Ras,” David muttered feebly, “you said it. I accept my error, okay? Please, just let me sleep in peace.”


Ras chuckled, propping his jaw on one hand. “As for me, I am for reporting the case to the police. What do you mean by we should let it pass? Who does he think he is?”


No sooner had he landed his threats than the wind suddenly flew the door open and startled Ras who jumped out of his seat, fearing Henry had returned.


David forced a short laugh. “What are you running away from?”


Ras sucked his teeth and sat down. “I thought it was a hurricane ".


“Hurri- what?” David giggled. “You thought it was him, isn’t it?”


“Who?” Ras sucked his teeth loudly. “You think I am afraid of him. A man of God fears no flesh. But seriously, man, you have to report to the police. Once you have rested small, I’m carrying you to the station and using your bruised ugly face as evidence, okay?”


“Hmm…Ras, I am afraid of more trouble o.”
Ras slapped a hand on his face in disappointment. “So you are going to let that stupid Henry get away wi-”


A sudden knock at the door froze the two men. Ras half-rose from his seat as David lifted up his head. Both men looked at the door in fear.

“Ras…” David whispered.


“Jack…” Ras whispered back, rising slowly.
“Check the door er.”


“Me?” Ras asked in a hushed tone, pointing to himself in surprise. “Jack, you’re not serious.”


“Who’s there?” David asked aloud boldly.
“It’s me, Keren,” answered a voice that left everyone relieved. “Can I come in?”


“Yeah,” David replied, throwing his head back onto the bed.


Keren walked in and received the shock of her life. With a hand covering her mouth and eyes filled with sympathy, she slowly approached David. “What happened?” she asked softly, her eyes darting from Ras to David.


“It’s that your stupid commando boyfriend!” Ras blurted out, rising and standing between Keren and the bed.


“Who?” Keren asked with an uncertain face.


“Don’t pretend you don’t know!” Ras exploded furiously. “Do you want to kill him? Sister girl, I’m asking you; do you want to kill my buddy, huh?”


Keren was speechless and slightly embarrassed.


“Oh Ras, why?” David forced himself up to sit. “Keren, sit down.”


Ras glanced back at David. “Sit where?” He turned back to Keren, “Go and tell that commando that he should get ready for a lengthy jail term, and when you are done telling him that, we will give you a seat.”
Ras plonked down into the chair and glared at Keren.


“Ras, you too,” David was getting annoyed with Ras’ flippant attitude and hostile treatment of Keren.


“Henry did this to you?” Keren asked, looking aghast.


“Come with me, Keren,” David rose up, took Keren by the arm and limped beside her across the room towards the door. They could hear Ras still ranting inside and that urged David to take Keren further away from the door.

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