“Ifeoma, do you know you are a very beautiful girl?” Ifeoma’s face blushed; she smiled and fingered her ears shyly.
“Thank you,” she forced a reply.
“What are you thanking me for?” the man asked, and nudged forward towards her, “You should answer me, and not thank me,” he said with a smile.
Ifeoma had be warned by her parents to always beware of the male folks. Her mother however, did not tell her in details what was expected of her to do when she was faced by an opposite sex in a secluded place or when they make attempt to come close to her unnecessarily. Her mothers word kept ringing deep down in her mind. She was scared of the man, though she was enjoying the soft words from Ikenna. She just listened to him. Ikenna who held in his hand, Mathematics textbook moved closer to her and dropped the textbook on the bench on which they sat. He touched Ifeoma’s hands and held it, feeling the tenderness of her skin. At this point , Ifeoma felt uncomfortable with his domineering presence. She tried to remove her hands from his, but his hands tightened in a firm grip.
“Ifeoma, I am beginning to fall in love with you. What do you think?” Mr. Ikenna said, his eyes rested on her innocent eyes.
“Uncle Ikenna, I am just scared. My mother has always warned me to beware of the male folk, especially bad boys.” she replied shyly.
“I am not a boy, but a man. Am I a bad man?” Ikenna asked with betrayal in his voice.
“No, you don’t look like a bad person. It’s just that I don’t feel comfortable with this. If my parents get to hear of this, I will be in trouble. My father is a very strict and I don’t want to disobey him,” she shyly replied. Ikenna ignored her, and pushed his face forward towards her, feeling her breath. He looked straight into her eyes.
” I love you very much,” Ikenna said, and as he wanted to plant his mouth on hers, she turned her face away. Just then, Ifeoma’s youngest brother Chukwudi ignorantly ran into the place. His presence prevented Ikenna from having his way with the girl. Startled at what he saw, Chukwudi ran off almost immediately towards their mother to report what he had just seen. Ifeoma had been in a corner of the compound, taking her supposed extramural lessons from her teacher, Uncle Ikenna. When Chukwudi returned to the place to monitor her behaviour, as their mother, had instructed him, he saw what shocked him. Ifeoma had moved closer to the man and was in a warm embrace with him. The boy ran to inform her mother of the unfolding drama.
“What!” Her mother jumped from her position and made for where Ifeoma was having the extramural lesson with the man.
“Ifeoma! Ifeoma! Where is that stupid, good for nothing girl?” she said furiously as she re-knotted her wrapper in readiness to confront the man. Just then, Ifeoma slowly walked into the house, like a chicken that had been drenched by rain. Her mother walked up to her and lashed her mercilessly with words.
“Where is that useless man that called himself lesson teacher? where is that dog of a man?” the angry woman squinted, in search of Ikenna, who himself had escaped when he noticed the scene, his action had created. The woman slapped her daughter on the chin when she didn’t see the man.

“Mummy, please let me be,” Ifeoma retorted and fired back, “Why did you slap me on the chin? You didn’t even care to find out if what Chukwudi told you was true. Instead, you acted on his blind accusation.” She looked at her mother scornfully and hissed, infuriating the woman the more. She gave her another slap, this time on the back. The sound was so loud that it attracted by standers. She barked at her daughter, “Ifeoma, you are a very stupid girl. Look at this idiot I carried in my womb for nine months. This little brat of yesterday,” Her eyes popped in their sockets in anger. “I will deal with you mercilessly.” Ifeoma’s voice was loud as she charged back at her mother, “mummy you must kill me today!” She cried as she held onto her mothers wrapper. It took the intervention of their neighbour, Mrs Nwokedi who saw the girl charging at her mother and rushed to separate her from the woman. That evening, when Mr Okonkwo came back from work, his wife narrated what had transpired earlier in the day to him.
“So, Ifeoma wanted to disgrace me, right? I assumed getting lesson teacher for her will help her academically. Now, I know better. As punishment, I shall make the rest of her holidays unbearable.” Mr Okonkwo snapped and sent for Ifeoma immediately.
“What nonsense have I heard about you? You were flirting with the lesson teacher I brought to help you academically?” Ifeoma was quit. She had eyes on the floor, counting the small patches that made up the rug.
“Answer me before I descend on you,” her father thundered.
“daddy, I didn’t do anything with him! He said he liked me, and that was all”
“Oh! I see! He said he liked you and that was all. Her father repeated after her. His mind drifted to where to he had kept his raffia palm cane. “Your mother had already pleaded on your behalf about your waywardness and arrogance, otherwise, I would have taught you the difference between gun and kite,” he threatened further.
” A young man I brought to help you, deviated and was telling you he liked you. What did you do to stop his advances? Did you warn him to stay away from you or what did you do? Of course you didn’t do anything,” the man’s voice grew louder, “You were enjoying his sweet talks and felt very comfortable with his hands on you.”
Ifeoma lowered her head and became speechless. He warned her seriously that he did not want to see her near Ikenna anymore and ordered her out of his presence. He confessed, “imitation” does not usually work. My wife wants to imitate our neighbours by getting a private teacher like them. But she had no time to monitor what was actually going on. Thank God for Chukwudi. Ikenna would have destroyed this little girl. He would have tainted her innocence to our detriment.” As far as he was concerned, Patrick had been fired. He would simply send for the young man, pay him off and warn him to steer clear of his children.
The next morning, just as her father had threatened, Ifeoma was asked to remain indoors all through the remaining days left in the holidays. She was not allowed to watch TV or play games with her siblings.
While at school, Ifeoma tried to read her books in preparation for her Senior Secondary Certificate Examinations, but sometimes she slept off while reading. The examination date drew closer, making everyone that would sit for the exams increase the time and intensity of their studies. Ifeoma had not made any serious effort but was almost nonchalant in her academics. Her friends had since avoided her company. They had very little or nothing to gain academically from her during the examination periods because she was not intelligent. She spent a great deal of her time, loitering and engaging in other activities instead of reading her books. She had resolved to rely on luck during exams. Each time she picked up a book to read, she would simply flip through the pages, taking no time to read in details. She would comfort herself that there was still time and that she would read all her books later. What she did not know was that procrastination is a dangerous habit.


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