“Akwaowo Barnabas, Mr. Ukana needs the complete list of all the students in this class.”
Alex flinched at the sound of his full name and wondered once again why Nse hated him so passionately. After her almost smile last term, he’d put more effort in trying to befriend her and had thought that they’d be fast friends when they’d been chosen to be class prefects.
He was the prefect and she his deputy, but Nse Okpo had gone out of her way to make him miserable and he regretted the prefect position everyday and wished he’d never been given. The problem was, he had the highest mark in the class in all subjects, followed closely by Nse, that was why they’d been chosen.
It was break time, but some of the students had stayed back in class and their curious eyes were right now riveted on him and Nse, since she was the only one who refused to call him Alex; even the teachers had gotten used to calling him Alex.
When one of the senior girls he’d slept with had twisted his name, juxtaposing it with the village name, he’d been furious and it had taken some very violent behaviour on his side to stop people from calling him the funny name. He knew his grand parents were aware of that unfortunate nickname but they never asked him, they chose to ignore it and focus on how good in school he was.
The students, especially the ones in his class now, expected to see some violent behaviour from him to Nse for daring to call him his legal name. It would have been a wonderful show and Nse’s big, brown eyes staring at him fixedly was daring him to do his worse.
Alex got to his full 5ft 11 height, his bulk towering over Nse’s 5ft 5. Usually, students, even some teachers flinched from his bulk but Nse held her ground, her eyes flashing daringly at him.
Shaking his head wearily, he grabbed his school bag and grabbed Nse’s arm, dragging her reluctantly from the class. She struggled to pull free but she was no match for his strength and he couldn’t let her go anyway, not with their class mates murmuring excitedly as he dragged her out.
They wouldn’t dare follow them though and Alex knew this. He dragged Nse who hadn’t stopped squirming to the back of the class and pushed her against the rough wall. He had always been aware of his bulging muscles and physical strength and had thrived to never be tyrannically intimidating to people, especially girls, but Nse pushed all his wrong buttons. Right now, he was tempted to squeeze her neck for her stubbornness.
“What is the meaning of this?” she spat the moment he let her go and she made to march away from him, but Alex boxed her in using his impressive bulk.
Nse pressed her body against the rough cement wall to avoid any part of her touching him, especially her ample bosom to his broad chest and yet, Alex moved threateningly closer; deep down, she feared she had gone too far in angering him, but she would never show him that.
“You want to join rape to your other vices?” she snapped out when his face had gotten so close she could feel his warm, masculine breath on her face.
Alex baulked at the idea that he would rape someone, especially Nse. His eyes widened in shock and Nse noticed intense hurt at her words, she immediately felt contrite for what she’d said.
But as soon as the shock had appeared on his face, it disappeared too, Alex read through her bluff.
“Why can’t you just call me Alex like everybody else?” he asked wearily, his eyes eating up her chubby face and enjoying his proximity to her. This was the first time he’d gotten close to her after over a year of being in the same class as her.
Nse scoffed and looked away, while swallowing hard and trying to curb the rapid beat of her heart. “It’s not your name,” she scowled and she looked so adorable with her chubby cheeks and frown that Alex couldn’t help the laugh that busted from his belly.
Since his hand was against the wall above her head, his deep laugh sent his head forward and shocked Nse by placing it on her shoulder. She gasped, held her breath and pressed her body so hard against the wall, it was as though she wanted to become one with the wall.
Her heart hammered at the beauty of him. Her breath caught at the deep vibration of his laugh reverberating through her body as he leaned his head on her shoulder. Her lips twitched to laugh with him. Her hands itched to hold him, but she couldn’t; she refused to be like the rest of the female population of this village. She refused to be another knot in his sexual belt. She refused to be her mother.
Alex sighed then, the warm breath caressing her cheeks and making her wish for what she couldn’t have. Alex was a flirt, a male prostitute, a chubby girl like her would never hold his attention and she had too much self respect to become a number on his list of conquests.
“Why do you hate me so much?” Alex asked, leaning back so that he could look directly into her eyes.
She couldn’t answer because she didn’t really hate him, she only hated what he’d become. Nse had instantly fallen for the sad boy at his parents’ grave, but then, he had changed or maybe, she had never known him as the students carried rumours about his sex escapades at his former school at Port Harcourt.
He leaned close daringly and inhaled her light flowery scent. “I’ll make you like me, Nse. It’s a challenge,” Alex said determinedly when he noticed the slight catch of her breath when he leaned close. He had no idea how he would do it, but he would try again.
Nse scoffed, ignored her hammering heart and snapped, “That is if you can look away from your concubines long enough,” she rolled her eyes insolently, push against his chest and marched away.
Alex looked after her, his eyes unconsciously lowering to the switch of her curvy hips, despite the pleats of their blue school skirt. He took a deep breath and began making plans, he had to talk to her friend about what she liked, he was determined to break through her defences.
“I’ll help you,” Imeobong, Nse’s close friend said coyly while biting her lips and trying to lean into him.
Alex pushed her away, “Be serious. I like your friend and I want her to be my girl,” he announced, hoping she would get the message and not try any rubbish.
Imeobong huffed and rolled her eyes, “She likes books. She reads novels,” she declared, rolled her eyes again and walked away.
With a hammering heart, Alex went to work. When his grandmother sent him to deliver pumpkin vegetable to her customers in the neighbouring village, he used that opportunity to check the big market and found some second hand novels, both romance and detective and they were cheap too, so he got half a dozen.
Over a month, he randomly dropped novels in Nse’s locker, with sweet notes to her on the front. Then he would write from Akwaowo to Nse with warm regards.
Alex had nervously watched her expression the first time she’d found a book in her locker. He’s watched her frown while tapping his leg nervously. It could have gone two ways, she could decide to out him and embarrass him and the school would know the mighty Alex was trying to beg a girl or, as she had done, she’d twisted her features to show disdain and had pointedly ignored the book.
By the third book, he’d wanted to give up and had stopped watching for her expression, but then, by pure luck, he caught her watching him during a Geography class. He had immediately winked at her and smiled when she huffed and looked away, then he saw a small smile curve her lips and he knew his plan had worked out; Nse was definitely beginning to like him.
“Where did you get the books?” she asked one morning when they’d been the first and only students in class.
Alex had been eager to tell her but then he smiled and leaned back in his chair, “It’s my secret. I’ll only tell you if you agree to be my friend,” he stated and looked at her with a smirk.
Nse scoffed and rolled her eyes, “In your dreams,” she said, but it was with a smile, even though she turned away from him and promptly ignored him for the rest of the week.
Alex had unknowingly bought her books from her favourite author, Nora Roberts. The other two were from authors she didn’t know but were also enjoyable reads. Every week got her jittery with excitement and expectation. Every week got her wondering what sort of book she would find in her locker and what small note he would write in it.
She loved the fact that he referred to himself as she called him and not like the rest of the school called him. It made her feel special, like she calling him ‘Akwaowo’ instead of ‘Alex’ was their own thing, not shared by others.
Nse was a romantic and Alex’s gestures greatly affected how she saw him. The attraction she’d felt for him but fought against had blossomed with full force. She was considering agreeing to be his friend. Though, it hurt that he didn’t say ‘girlfriend’ but she was more comfortable that he’d said friend, it was less complicated.
“I’m going to agree to Alex’s request,” she excitedly told her friend, Imeobong.
Her eyes widened in shock, “To be his girlfriend?”
Nse frowned, “No, his friend,” she emphasized the adjective.
“But…but, you don’t like him. You treat him like an enemy,” Imeobong stated, seeming perturbed about Nse’s decision.
“So? I’ve changed my mind,” she shrugged, wondering why her friend was acting weird.
“But he is a flirt. You swore you would never have anything to do with such a man,” Imeobong pointed out, coming to a stop in the middle of the field; they’d decided to take a stroll during their break time, junior students ran around them in vigorous play.
“That’s why he is just a friend,” Nse slowed and stopped, turning to face her friend.
Imeobong scoffed, “He wants you as his girlfriend,” she pointed out as though Nse was naïve.
Her heart skipped at that but she controlled her excitement, “You don’t know that. He specifically asked that we be friends.”
“What’s the difference? See, Nse, girls can never be friends with boys.”
Nse bit her lower lip in contemplation, her eyes roving unseeingly across the field. As though by magic, her eyes ended up aligning with that of Alex; he had been staring fixedly at her, while leaning on a class block until her eyes had found his.
He raised his hand and wiggled his fingers in a comical wave. Nse’s lips broke into an unconscious grin and quickly looked away, docking her head, so that Imeobong wouldn’t follow the direction of her eyes.
“Stop worrying for me, Ime, he’s just a friend. And if he tries to make it anything more…”
“But what will people think? Everybody knows you hate him, if you suddenly become his friend, everything will change!” she exclaimed.
Nse had never seen her friend this passionate about anything and was warmed that she really cared about her well being. “It won’t. Besides, it’s not like I’m the principal of the school and if I become friends with him, the government will take away our blackboards,” she joked and chuckled but Imeobong didn’t crack a smile, she seemed angry at her.
The bell rang for end of break and she sighed in relief, she was tired of this conversation. When they started strolling back to class, she chanced a look over her shoulder, caught Alex still staring at her and she did what she’d never done before, she waved at him with a smile.
She saw the shock on his face and the happy smile and decided, “I’ll tell him after school today.”
Imeobong scoffed angrily, “At least, have some respect, do it tomorrow. There is no need to seem too eager.”
Her friend’s advice made sense and she took it.
The problem was, she caught her best friend in an intimate embrace with Alex the very next day. It was a shock because in all the time that she had known Imeobong, she had never come to school earlier than 8:30am.
Yet, she was there, pressing her breast on Alex’s stomach as she was really short.
Alex saw Nse first and seemed to struggle more to disentangle himself from Imeobong’s grabby hands.
“Is this why you asked me to tell him in the morning?” Nse wasn’t stupid, of course she saw her friend’s supposed concern for what it really was, Imeobong wanted Alex to remain unattached because then, she would have a chance to throw herself at him like the rest of the school.
Imeobong pretended to gasp in shock and tried to accuse a speechless Alex. When she shifted though, Nse was accorded the sight of Alex’s engorged fly, he was a male after all, any female body got him aroused. But it only served to anger Nse more, in her heart, they were both at fault.
Even though Alex called after her but couldn’t leave the class for obvious reasons, Nse ignored him, while trying to hide her tears, she was heartbroken. She couldn’t understand why she was hurt, not with her friend but with Alex, he wasn’t her boyfriend and he wasn’t even her friend!
She would have loved to race back home and sulk the whole day but her grandmother would definitely not tolerate such tardiness. Nse had to wipe her tears and build up the wall of defence she had temporarily let down just to let Alex in; silently, she promised herself it would never happen again.