It took me hours before I could sleep that day. I ran through the internet, reading everything I could on HPV. After reading all I could read, I lay myself down on the bed, with my eyes fixated on the ceilings. After hours of having many thoughts streaming through my mind, I finally fell asleep.
The heavy bangs my mother made on the door to my room woke me up the next morning.
“Michael! Do you even know you’re late already, and you’re still in bed!” My mother shouted. “Get ready in fifteen minutes, or else you will have to get a taxi to school.”
I struggled out of bed. “Mum, please. I’ll soon be ready.” I picked up my phone to check the time.
“And Okon left already, he said that he has an assignment he must submit before 7:30am.” She said before leaving.
I rushed to the bathroom, got myself ready quickly to meet up the time my mother gave. “I’m ready ma.”
“Get yourself into the car.” She said, entering the car.
While we were on the road, the only thing I could think of was the possibility that I had the virus – HPV. Was that why she wept that day?
“God help me.” I said under my breath.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing ma, I was just talking to myself.”
She had her eyes on me for few second before asking, “what’s the matter?”
How I craved and wished I could just pour it all out to her but I wasn’t used to opening up to my mother. It would not help at that point in time, it would spoil a lot of things. Where would I start from? Okon and I? Aunt Gloria and I? My father and aunt Gloria? It would shatter things. I decided to keep it bottled up.
“It’s nothing, I was just thinking about something.” I avoided her eyes. “How’s Auntie Gloria?”
She sighed. “We don’t know what is going to happen next? We are trusting God.” She smiled. I wondered if she really meant what she said, if truly she really trusted God.
“How did it happen?”
She stared at me long enough that she almost lost control of the car’s wheel. She had to regain her balance. It was so obvious the situation had affected her.
“How much would she lose it if she gets to know about everything I am bottling up?” I thought.
“Are you okay?” I asked, “I think it’s better we just don’t talk now.”
She nodded. “Well, to answer your question, she didn’t tell.”
I had to face the shame of being late to school. It was embarrassing, the punctuality prefects had to give me a slight punishment. They never wanted to, one of the teachers insisted. I really wished I could curse and slap her but my reputation held me.
In no time, I was done with the punishment. My assignment was late for submission. I had to rush to submit, nevertheless. Straight to class, I didn’t bother to assume my responsibilities that morning. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to do it, I had trusted my assistant to do it well.
All through out the classes I had before the lunch break, I was off. Barely could I say that this was what was being taught. I couldn’t just push the thoughts away. The thoughts of how it all started. Okon. My Aunt. How she wept that day. Could it be that she knew? I felt like I was shattering on the inside.
Okon called me, running towards me as I walked off to the school basketball court. My mind was too occupied to hear.
He tapped me on the shoulders. “guy, wetin do you? You made me run.”
When he saw the mood I wore, he was silent for a while. He broke the silence. “Margaret isn’t in school today, did you even notice?”
I stared at him in shock immediately he said that. Not because Margaret didn’t come to school but because of the possibility of her being infected.
“Why the stare? Anyone can decide not to come to school.” Okon took hold of my hands and pulled me to where we got to sit.
“What’s wrong, Michael?”
I contemplated telling Okon, he was the only close friend I had, apart from Margaret. Within few minutes, I relayed everything to him. I could sense fear in his eyes, beads of sweat formed on his forehead.
“This is serious! Have you been having any symptoms or something?”
“I don’t think I will necessarily get symptoms if I already have the virus.”
“Let’s calm down. You don’t know for sure if you do, and Margaret too, might be safe. Let’s just hope.”
“You don’t seem to understand.”
“Michael, calm down. You just told me the HPV is not that deadly as you read. Your Aunt’s case is because it led to cervical cancer.”
Okon’s point of view made sense a bit to me. “But do you think it’s good I leave it to chances.”
“Michael, don’t be afraid. You dey alright. You’re only scared.”
The bell rang. The lunch break was over and we left for class. Class was already started by the time I got into the classroom.
As the class continued. There was an uproar, it seemed to be from the Principal’s office which was close to our class. Everyone wondered what could have gone wrong.
Three policemen, with two adults who seemed to be a couple stormed our class. The Principal was also with them.
“That’s him, sir.” The Principal pointed to me with shame written all over his face. The policemen charged at me.
“What?” Everyone could not get a hold of what was going on, and I was lost too. The class teacher watched in surprise.
“You will rot in jail! Where’s Margaret?” The woman shouted and locked my shirt as the policemen cuffed my hands. The woman kept cursing.
“I don’t know about what you’re saying. Is Margaret missing? Seriously. You can’t arrest me, I’m just a boy. Please, I did nothing!” At that time, I was already weeping trying to convince them of my innocence but all my plea fell on deaf ears. I was taken away to the police station.
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