“You read that chapter so well Susan. Now can we have another reader?” That was Madam Quin, the English teacher.
Almost all the other thirty five students raised their hands eager to read out aloud and show off their reading prowess. The teacher saw Isabel ‘s hand first and chose her. Then there was a chuckle and an incomprehensible utterance from the back bench that made all the other students burst into laughter.
Evangeline was the cause of the hubbub. Madam Quin stared at her but did not speak a word. She didn’t warn the rude student that stared back at her daringly.
“Isabel, go ahead, read.” She said even as Evangeline pulled her lips to a long degoratory hiss.
“Chapter 8 reads, He wrote three times mbefore he ngot the nerve….”
Isabel could not read further. Her classmates were rolling on the floor laughing their behinds off at her poor accent. She desperately glanced at the teacher for help.
“Ok. Ok. Hush now. You are all laughing at the girl who tops the class. Can’t you all be ashamed of yourselves?” She said angrily.
“Mbefore he ngot the nerve!” Evangeline, ignoring the teacher repeated the poorly said words as she slapped her desk in uncontrolled laughter. The rest of the students, except for a few burst again into a fresh hubbub of laughter. Some wiped their tears while others held their ribs literally.
Madam Quin fixed her gaze at Evangeline. Evangeline wasn’t bothered at all. She knew the teacher would do nothing to her. She was Mr Mali’s daughter.
The school was a national school, a centre of excellence. It was known for having the best performance year after year. The school had two kinds of students. One was the very rich kind that paid fees in six figures. The other were the needy, these were few and were only admitted to maintain a high mean score of the school. These kind did not pay any school fees. The school sponsored them.
Evangeline did not only come from a very wealthy home but also a home whose head rubbed shoulders with the high and mighty. When Evangeline came from home on opening day, she was not driven in to school by a chauffeur. No, that was too low for her. She prefered it high, literally high. Evangeline came in to school by a chopper which would land on the school field.
On the other hand, Isabel was one of the needy ones. Isabel had lived in such poverty that the secondary school was the first stone building she lived in. She was used to cartons, rusty ironsheets or pieces of old plywood as walls snd roofs. When the school did not demand for any school fees from her, her parents were required to buy her personal items for her. Sadly, even that was too much to ask for from Isabel’s parents, not with six more children to feed.
That was where Evangeline’s father came in, again. Mr Mali would ask for the list of the very needy students and then leave the school accountant with enough money for them to be bought for all their essential items
The kind honourable didn’t just help the students.
If it weren’t for Mr Mali, the school, wouldn’t have a 50 metre swimming pool,or a water dispenser in every room, or a two floor library. The teachers would not be boasting an office for every department equipped with a computer for each of them. His most recent munificent act was the construction of a grand laboratory.
The school administration almost worshipped the ground Mr Mali walked on. He had made the school the envy of neighbouring institutions. Even the science colleges around sent their students to do their research in the secondary school lab.
How then would Madam Quin reprimand Mr Mali’s daughter? She would never even dare report her to her seniors, otherwise, she would find a transfer letter on her desk next morning moving her to a school in the desert. She thought she should rather talk to Isabel.
The bell signalling the end of the lesson rang. Evangeline was still making fun of Isabel’s reading.
“Calm down class. Pass your exercise books for marking. Isabel, bring them to me at the office.” Madam Quin ordered and left the class.
Isabel collected her fellow students’ exercise books calmly. There was no fear nor shame in her face. She gathered them to a clean pile and left the class.
“I am so sorry about Evangeline’s disrespect for you. I want to ask you to be brave and focus on what brought you to school. Only the strongest survive criticism.” Madam Quin advised when Isabel brought her the exercise books.
“Thank you Mwalim, I know I don’t deserve to be in such a school but just the privilege of being here is enough to keep me going despite the mockery the rich kids hurl at me.” Isabel answered. Madam Quin squeezed her hand wishing she could do more but her hands were tied.
“Ok. Go to class but if you ever need to talk to someone, I will always be here for you. Ok?” The teacher asked and her student nodded then turned back and went back to class.
Isabel knew she had to survive. Her mother had promised to pray for her everyday. She lived by that belief, that her mother was praying for God’s angels to give her strength to survive a world that she was a stranger to.
She entered the class and realized that it was unusually quiet. She smelled a dead rat. Her two closest friends looked at her pitifully as if warning her against something. The others wore eager looks, potraying a readiness for something that would happen soon.
Isabel walked carefully, wondering what the students had planned this time. Her heart was beating furiously. Have they put glue on my chair? She wondered. The chair was clean. Have they broken one leg so that I fall down? It was intact.
Isabel sat down carefully and threw glances at her now anxious colleagues. She looked around her and there was still no suspicious trap. Slowly, she opened her desk, it was neat as she had left it. She took out her books and her pencil pouch. Then she heard someone take a deep breath prompting her to crane her neck to see who it was while she opened her pouch to pick a pen. Then , she let out a loud ear piercing shrill.
The laughter that followed was defeaning. Evangeline was panting in an exaggerated way pretending to have a heart attack from too much laughing.
Isabel threw her pouch out of the open window as she continued to scream in fear. A baby snake had just crawled from the pen bag and caressed her fingers.
“Who ndind that? Heeh? Who put a ndamn snake in my pen mbag? I will report all of you to the andiminstration!”
“Woooo…wooo…I am dying! Please tell her to stop talking or I will die of laughter!” Evangeline shouted laughing but her face showing pain. Pain from over-laughing.
The French teacher came in. The class quietened down and quickly took out their exercise books. No one wanted to miss any of Mademoiselle Jeanne’s lessons.
“Bonjour à toute la classe!” She greeted them.
“Bonjour Proffeseur!” They responded.
“Vous semblez très excité!” She commented about their overexcited faces. “Pourqoui?” And asked why.
The students were more intrigued at how easy their teacher spoke the foreign language than what they had just witnessed. The teacher smiled at the students after no one explained why they were happy and commenced on the lesson. By then, Isabel’s tense nerves had allayed.
Isabel, being very bright answered the most questions that the teacher orally asked. The rest dared not ridicule her in Madam Jeanne’s class. This teacher was known to severely chastise students if they misbehaved in her class. No one wanted to receive a French rap of rebuke so even Evangeline refrained from stirring trouble.
But that’s the only time that Isabel was safe. If Evangeline was not ridiculing Isabel’s accent, she was jeering at her for being on the lower echelon.
“No, Isabel tell me seriously, how do you people in the slums cope?…Listen guys, these people have flying toilets! Can you believe it! And you won’t believe what a flying toilet is. As in they poop in a paper bag and then send it flying to God knows where! Yuck!” She announced to a class that was trying to read for the final exams. They forced a laugh here and there.
Isabel, having enough of the derision, took her books and walked out to the library. The library that her scoffer’s father had built. She wondered how people who shared the same flesh could be so different. Mr Mali was known for hard work, humility and generosity yet his daughter was quite the opposite. God bless the good man, Isabel said a short prayer and sank into her books.
When the poor have to exert themselves to achieve their dream, most with deep pockets don’t need to pour a sweat and this was the case for Isabel and Evangeline. They both joined university. It was out of many days and night of blood sweat for Isabel. As for Evangeline, she was lucky enough to achieve a grade that would allow her to join university on a self sponsored program. It was the same university.
Isabel endeavoured to avoid Evangeline and her clique because whenever they met, Evangeline would humiliate her with jibes and jeers. Fortunately, they did not meet so often for they studied different courses.
Ironically, Evangeline’s father still checked on the progress of her academics and other students’ who had performed well in their final exams. He constantly send financial aid to her to continue with her studies without any mishap. By then, his political career was flourishing. He had a loyal backing from the many citizens he had assisted. It was a steady climb for him on the political ladder.
Isabel finally graduated with an upper class honours. She followed up with all the required classes and passed all examinations to finally be admitted at the bar. She was now a fully fledged attorney at law. She could now afford money to change the lifestyle of her family.
On the other hand, Evangeline’s life was also prospering. She graduated with a Degree in Political Science. She wanted to follow in her father’s steps. Months after her graduation, she joined a political party affiliated to the father much to the excitement of the citizenry.
The faces of Mr Mali and his daughter were all over the media. Journalists couldn’t have enough of the two. They called Evangeline a chip off the old block from her many acts of charity. Just like her father, Evangeline became the darling of many. Some even suggested that her father vie for the presidential seat and her the deputy. How much the country would grow under their able leadership! They exclaimed.
Isabel would watch the news of the Malis keenly. She was amazed at how Evangeline had warmed herself to the hearts of all and sundry. Power of the shilling, she sighed. She was however grateful that were it not for Mr Mali, she would not have been where she was. Deep down, she believed he was genuinely good. As for Evangeline, Isabel still harbored a lot of resentment towards her. She was grateful they had gone seperate ways after campus life.
Then a major scandal involving Evangeline Mali erupted. It made her shift from being the people’s favorite to being the most unpopular political figure overnight. It caused an uproar! Foreign journalists landed in masses to cover the juicy story. Suddenly the constituents that adored her were baying for her blood. Riots broke out in every town. Mr Mali’s approval ratings dropped drastically.
A pregnant woman had been found dead. A CCTV footage had caught four figures entering the victim’s compound. They wore black hooded sweatshirts, black jeans and boots. Thirty minutes later, the thugs were seen leaving the compound. Incidentally, one of the thugs’ hood fell off from her head but she quickly wore it back . It was too late because Evangeline’s signature hair (pin curled red pixie cuts with blonde patches) had already been caught on camera.
It was very clear that the exposed thug was Evangeline Mali. She had led the thugs to the woman’s house with an intention to kill.
A press conference was called to calm the situation. The head of investigations assured the public that justice would be pursued. He confirmed that indeed one of the suspects was a daughter to a celebrated prominent person. Although yet to be confirmed, they had received tips from concerned ones that it was a suspected love triangle gone sour. The deceased woman was in fact expectant, allegedly carrying Evangeline’s lover’s baby. She was a lawyer by profession. More updates would keep being conveyed to the public, he concluded.
“A leopard truly cannot change it’s spots.” Isabel who had been watching from her office television remarked.
TO BE CONTINUED