Diana’s Dilemma

by Adaobi Ezirim

“…And next time, don’t come late to school. Have you heard?” Mr. Tom said, dispassionately smacking his brown lips.

“Yes”

“Yes what?” He said with a frown brushing off Diana’s dusty fingerprints from his coffee brown trousers.

“Yes sir”

“Good, now run off to class!” he thundered trying to snap back into the “teacher” mode.

“Thank you sir”

“One more thing,” Mr. Tom said and she stood still without turning to face him, “Today was better than last week. You are really improving.” She said nothing and walked away before he could say another word.

The morning gentle breeze caressed Diana’s dark brown face as she walked away from the gate house, heading towards the classroom block. It teased the bruise on her neck and caused her mild pain. She touched the spot and winced again. The Mathematics teacher was walking out as she approached the block so she knew she had about seven minutes before the next class.

“You are late again,” Ngozi said in a tone that expressed disappointment as Diana walked in and sat on her desk. She could never make it early to school, not when she had to sell 15 litres of Koko every morning.

“And you had to give Mr. Tom a bl** job,” Nike said confidently. Diana exhaled and hung her old leather bag on her wooden chair. She wiped the tiny dots of sweat that had clustered on her forehead with the back of her palm.

“Do I have a choice?” She asked no one in particular and Ngozi hissed. She opened her locker and brought out an old notebook and began to search for a biro. Female students had written petitions against Mr. Tom several times and the school promised to do something but never did.

“Why don’t you take his strokes of cane instead? I would prefer that to sticking my mouth to a private part that is more public than our community borehole” Farida said bluntly.

“Farida, you don’t know what you are saying!” Nike responded a little irritated.

“Have you ever been flogged by Mr. Tom?” Ngozi asked Farida.

“He gives late comers 24 strokes of cane on the back, Farida. You cannot survive one stroke of Mr. Tom’s cane” Nike said confidently.

“What choice do I have? My back is swollen from different strokes of cane I receive everyday from my Madam. I’ll rather go with his second option.” Diana said and looked away. Farida shook her head and exhaled.

“Doesn’t it feel weird? I mean, having to do that dirty thing with a man as terrible as Mr. Tom” Ngozi asked, stressing on ‘dirty thing’ to express the disgust she felt. Diana scoffed and looked away. It was better with Mr. Tom. At least she didn’t have to call him “Uncle” and bow every morning to him in obeisance after the deed as she always did with her Madam’s husband.

“One day, your sun will shine and this darkness will be forgotten” Farida said to her assuredly squeezing her palm.

Diana nodded with a faint smile.

She had lost hope.

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