I hear the scream from two classes away, and the first time, I ignore it. But I know that scream. Since she gave it to me, I’ve not been able to get it out of my mind. A swift tearing sound, and the scream again.
I look at the students I just gave a small classwork to do, and walk to the entrance of the class. If I—the scream. I follow the sound and its Bisi’s class like I guessed. And Bisi is doubled over, much the same way she did for me that horrible day not so long ago, her two hands squeezed in between her thighs.
Toro flogs all over her body while she waits for Bisi to present her hand. I swallow hard. If I intervene, would it not put Bisi in more trouble? What was Toro doing in the class, anyway, she no longer taught it.
Bisi straightens and stretches out her hand. From outside the window where I stand, I see the red welts on her already blistered hand. I look at Toro, and her face is stony. She raises the cane and hits hard on Bisi’s hand. The poor girl screeches and falls to her knees.
I can’t take it. Toro hits her on the head with the cane. “Stand up. Stupid girl.”
I turn around and walk to the staff room.
I’m shaking so badly, I can’t concentrate. It’s true I cannot control who gets offended by her, but at the same time, I’m wondering what her offense is. Why would Toro be so cruel?
Shortly after, Toro walks into the staff room. She ignores me though I stare her down, bidding her to look my way. It doesn’t happen. Again, I reconsider what the repercussion of challenging her would be. Was this a form of retaliation for hitting Steve? How petty.
She’s been angry with me since the confrontation the day before but I’m not bothered. One day, she will realize I did it for her.
I don’t have Bisi’s class today and thankfully too. I won’t be able to teach seeing her in pain. I barely get through the rest of the day. I ignore Toro since she acts like nothing unusual has happened.
Later in the early evening, I go in search of Ajao. We have our evening lessons and hunting together. Maybe it’s my mood, I catch nothing though Ajao got a small bird. We pluck the feathers and roast before I raise the topic.
He shrugs. “She’s fine.”
“And her hand?”
He arches his eyebrow. “How did you know?”
“I was teaching close by. I heard her.”
Ajao shakes his head. “That female tisha is very wicked.”
Anger rises from my stomach. “But what did Bisi do?”
“Nothing o.” Ajao shakes his head. “She just enter the class, call her out, tell her she’s very stupid and flogs her six strokes.”
“I have to take that up with Toro.” I take a deep breath. I know Toro will be glad she got at me, but that is so unfair and not justified. If she has any problem with me, she should face me, not a helpless girl who has nothing to do with it.
“How’s the hand?”
“Swollen. But my grandmother has put some herbs so she can be able to write. The tisha just beat only her right hand. Six! Ah very wicked.”
I swallow. I don’t want to hear more. “What sort of herbs?”
“Local herbs. Very good one o. Then they wrap it with leaves, and tie it.”
“You know what, when we finish here, we will go to the drug store together and buy some drugs for her.”
I frown. “What’s funny?”
“You really like Bisi o.”
I’m tempted to laugh but remember I can’t afford to share such jokes with him.
I wag my finger. “You can’t talk like that.”
“I know.” He laughs, and I hide my face to conceal my amusement.
We walk to the chemist together and I buy the drugs and bandage recommended by the shop owner.
“You should come and give her yourself, Tisha.”
“No.” I remember what happened last time. “You give her. Goodnight, and greet your parents.”
I rush off. My blood is hot and I want Toro to explain some things to me. I hope she will be available.
She is not. But not for the reason I expected.
I find Toro locked in combat with Fortuna. They tear at their hairs and underwear. I am appalled not only by the sight of the two ladies fighting shamelessly in front of the block, but Steve and Kenny playing Ludo inside Kenny’s room, with the door ajar.
I fling my backpack to one side and throw myself in between the girls.
I gasp. “What is wrong with you both?”
They ignore me and reach around me, so I carry Toro who is the smaller of the two to her room. Fortuna follows, and I barricade her.
“Fortuna, stop it.”
Fortuna pants. “Let me teach the little fool a lesson of her life.”
“You are a big fool, Fortuna.” Toro yells from inside her room. “Asewo! Husband snatcher. Ole! Thief!”
Fortuna pushes at me but I hold her at bay. “Abbey, get out of my way.”
I lower my voice. “Look at you, you’re bleeding. What’s this about?”
She turns and walks into her room. I follow her. Steve’s sharp laughter cuts through the night sounds. I need to speak with these guys later on. This is so not acceptable.
Fortuna looks into a small mirror to view the damage caused by Toro’s sharp nails on her cheekbone. The cut is deep and ugly.
“What happened?” I say softly.
Fortuna is such a simple and agreeable girl, I never could have imagined.
“Abbey, it’s okay it’s over.” She picks a small towel and cleans around the wound.
“You’ll need antiseptics for that. I have some in my room.”
I rush to get my small first aid box. “Here.” I put some antiseptic liquid on a cotton bud. “It will hurt a little.”
She stifles a scream and grabs my hand but lets me clean her.
I look at her pointedly. “You need to sleep. Take two Panadol tablets and just try and sleep.”
“She’s such an idiot, Abbey.” Fortuna bites her lips. “She thinks everyone is sleeping with Steve.”
I can’t believe my ears. They fight over that? Toro’s insults make sense to me.
“Did you?” I don’t know why I ask. “I’m sorry I asked. It’s none of my business.”
“Yes.” She smirks. “And I will do it again just to spite her.”
I rest my case. No wonder the guys play while the girls fight.