The siren woke me.
I sat up, closed my book (I hadn’t gotten past the first page) and put it into my “locker”, then I chained my bucket to my locker, there was no point taking it empty to the hostel. Once again I hadn’t been able to get any water and I was just too tired to join the other desperate junior girls in the night crawling in search of water. I had only one intention; to go and continue this sleep in my bed. I rushed out of the classroom and towards ‘Red Bricks’ with the other students praying that there wasn’t any mass punishment at the hostel today; The latest batch of prefects were still fresh and keen on exercising their authority, what better way to do this than to punish and flog at the slightest semblance of an offence? Night time was always the best time to do this, they could get all or at least most of us together at once, kneeling in the courtyard, while they pranced around in their fancy bras and shorts, threatening us with the best combination of Phonetics and slang words they can come up with before administering the real beating….
“Sapphire girls! Sapphire girls! All of you are very stupid! (We could never just be anything, we always had to be “very” something) You had the liver! The temerity! The audacity!, to walk down to the dining hall today! Ehn ehn, You wanted to show us that you can step, that you can catwalk, you were waiting for me to tell you to run down abi…..” or something like that.

So, I was praying for this safe journey to my bed when she called me, I couldn’t pretend I didn’t hear, I didn’t turn but I could feel her gaze on me in the darkness, attempting to escape could only have attracted a worse night than the one I was praying against, the consequences would have lasted more than that night…. These senior girls were merciless. Normally, I would have had a ready lie in the three seconds that it took me to get there; a reason why I couldn’t carry that bucket of water for her, but this night I wasn’t at the top of my game. I just wanted to sleep.

“All of you Carry one, one” (she already had about six victims before I joined)… I recognised her, she was one of the senior girls who had “chanced” us at the tap today. They came, five of them’ with what seemed like a hundred empty buckets and taken over the 3 taps. They were still filling their containers when the taps started to make funny gurgling sounds and throw out the water like Nikru Sylvanus would throw up puke in a movie to announce her pregnancy. I left then, before I would be called to carry the water to their classes.

“Go to Topaz house room 4, ask for Salamatu’s corner, drop it under my bed, May God bless your souls, just pour a drop of water in my corner…. I will…” I had already lifted one and started leaving. I noticed the other girls band together, partnering in their lamentations but I wasn’t interested, I went ahead of them aiming to get this over with and retire.

I could already see the hostel gates when the thought occurred to me.

It had been really dark.

She didn’t look too closely at my face.

I hadn’t spoken so she couldn’t recognise my voice.

I didn’t have any water.

I looked back, the other girls were nowhere in sight… As I passed the gate, I headed straight for Sapphire house with the bucket of water.

By this time, the sleep had cleared from my eyes.

I didn’t go into the hostel with the bucket. As with all intelligent crimes, I had to cover my tracks. I hid the bucket of water somewhere ensuring that no one was watching and went to my room. I came out with two empty buckets, my school shirt and socks and my daywear. Ten minutes later I went in with two buckets, one with my wet washed clothes and another half filled with water, now there would be no need to chant “please give me one bowl” in the morning. The first bucket had been left outside for whoever was lucky or unlucky enough to tap it.

I got into bed humming “God will make a way… where there seems to be no way……”

I would brag about this the next day to my friends and they would tell me how “sharp” I am.