"I prefer this white gown. See, what do you think?" Sandra asked Precious who was focused intently on her phone.
"I prefer the red." Precious replied.
"Awww, you don't have eyes. Anita what do you think jare?" She said to me
"I go with the red." I replied and Sandra tightened her face as she stared at us as if we were both crazy. We threw our heads back and laughed.
"You girls always gang up against me." She sulked.
I extended my hands toward her and rested it on her shoulders. "We will if you don't close this magazine." I threatened playfully fiddling with her hairs. She stuck her tongue at me as she flipped through the next page of the beauty magazine.
Precious and i had been friends for as long as I could remember. Her mum was a regular customer of my mum and we had started to hang out since kindergarten. We lived in the same neighborhood and most of the time, we were always found in each other's houses. We even had a time table to know whose house was next to hang out. It had always been about us until Sandra came and made us threesome. This was how we met Sandra.
My mother had told me to get ready to have a new neighbour since Miss Loveth had moved out. Miss Loveth was a divorcee, she rented the three bedroom flat next to my house which seem to big for just one person. I and Precious had waited patiently for the new neighbours to come. We hoped it was a family with a female child. One Saturday as we sat under the mango tree in my house reading a book, we heard the sound of a truck. We watched as the family trooped out, first a man and a woman, then a little boy. I and Precious exchanged looks as we shook our heads. They started offloading and then, a tall slim girl emerged from the truck with a hand bag slung on her shoulders. She looked just like a model from a magazine. Precious pinched me as we both smiled. The girl stood for a while glancing at the whole neighborhood. She sighted us, then we waved to her and she waved back. She then turned to assist her family in carrying bags and utensils into the house. In the evening, when Precious was about to leave, she suggested we said hi to the girl who was sitting on the front step looking at a catalogues. when we got to where she sat, we introduced ourselves and told her she can come hang out with us once in a while. She shook her head and we left. We had already lost hope that she would ever come since she didn't show up for the like five days but one Monday, she showed up at my house and then I took her to Precious' and we became friends.
It was a new section and it felt good to return to school for my final year in secondary school. I woke up early, had my bath and went to the kitchen to make some quick noodles for I and my little sister Ngozi, After eating, I grabbed my school bag went to my parent's room, took transport fare and sped out of the house. We always took turns in gathering at a each other's houses in the morning so we could go to school together. That day it was Sandra's house we gathered. Precious was already there when I arrived. I joined her in watching Tv as we waited for Sandra to get ready. Sandra's father offered to take us to school since his office was the same route and since we were already done. We got into the car and I thanked my stars because I have saved my t-fare. Sandra's father was a civil servant in one of the ministries in Lagos. We sat at the back seat as we chatted. When we got to school we greeted all of our school friends and teachers after that we cleared our lockers and got ready for class. The first subject was English. Mrs Bk, said she was going to revise. Mrs Bk's name was Bukola but she insisted we called her Bk. While we were revising, a junior student walked in and took an excuse saying that Precious was being called by the school's secretary, Mrs Chima.
Precious really took a lot of time as we were already in the second period of English and she was yet to return. Mrs Bk gave us an exercise and while we were at it, Principal Stephen walked in with a young boy. I didn't really see his face because he was facing Mrs Bk.
"We have a new student class, i know we are not supposed to accept new students into ss3 but our friend here, just moved in with his parent so we can understand his predicament." Principal Stephen announced to the class, then to the boy, he said "welcome to Gate way international school and this is your class." The boy muttered a thank you and Principal Stephen left the class.
Mrs Bk smiled at the boy and then said "Say Hello to the class." That was when the boy faced the class and I could see his face very clearly. My jaws dropped down. God! He was the most handsome boy I have ever set my eyes on. Like I knew this kind of people existed but I never thought they could be so real. Like I see these faces only in movies and music videos but not in my real life. Not standing in my class, not in front of me.
"Hello, my name is Clifford. I hope to have a wonderful section with you guys." He said taking a quick bow.
"Nice meeting you." The class responded but I couldn't say anything because I was still in shock.
Then Sandra grabbed my shoulders from the back and whispered into my ears "this boy is a WOW!" I nodded weakly. He was more than wow. Precious came in third period and immediately the bell rang, as if it was planned, I and Sandra asked together "what took your time?" Precious looked at us amused "Well, it's about the money my dad paid into the school's account. We were sorting out somethings."
"Okay, guess what?" Sandra whispered to Precious.
"Look over there, we have a newbie and God, he's so hot."
Precious narrowed her eyes at this "newbie?"
"Yes, he just moved in with his parents and blah blah but this guy is hot."
"Hot enough to boil meat?" Precious teased.
"Even rice sef, Anita abi?" Sandra poked me. Precious laughed and shook her head.
"She's laughing because she hasn't seen him yet." I told her.
"Alright, let's go and see him." Precious said standing up.
"Wait, we can't just go like that. We need to use style. Look!"
We always sit at the middle row so Sandra slid her book to Clifford's seat which was at the front.
"Let's go and pick my book." We stood up giggling as we walked to the front row. Clifford was writing his English note when we got there.
"Sorry, please could you help me with my book which is under your desk?" Sandra asked so sweetly.
Clifford looked up at us and to our surprise, Precious screamed "Clifford!"
Clifford stood up quickly "Precious?"
Precious threw her hands on his neck as they hugged. I and Sandra stared at each other as Sandra sheepishly bent low to pick her book.
"So this is your school?" Clifford asked.
"Yes." Precious replied. Then turning to us she introduced, "meet my friends, Anita and Sandra."
"Nice meeting you." Clifford offered his hands but Sandra hugged him. I just stood there like a dummy. I wished I had confidence and guts like Sandra.
As we sat in the school's cafeteria with our snacks on the table, I asked, "how did you know Clifford?"
"I met him at my cousin's place. Remember the time I spent my long holiday at my aunt house?", she asked me and I nodded "is that the guy you said was more handsome than an angel, your first crush?"
She smiled broadly "not anymore!"
"So basically, you know him." I said more to myself than to them.
"What are you thinking?"
"Nothing.", I muttered.
"I know what you're thinking." Sandra said in a sing song voice.
"What's she thinking?" Precious asked.
"Clifford!" Sandra replied.
"Oh!" They both said as they giggled.
"You girls are crazy. You think I like him, wake up." I denied.
"We know." They said again giggling.
"I'm serious. I don't like him. Quit teasing me cause it's already annoying."
Sandra stared at me intently "so you don't feel anything for him?"
"Absolutely." I said with a note of finality.
Ashley was our classmate. She was having a birthday party and she brought invitation cards to school. She gave me a copy but unfortunately for me, I'd be going shopping with my mum that day for my own birthday party the next Saturday. It was sad because all my classmates were going, but I had to prepare for my own sweet sixteenth birthday. Ashley said she understood and that was how I didn't attend the party.
On Monday, I went to school alone. I just felt that my friends would wake up late because of the birthday party the other day. To my surprise, Precious was already in school. I hurried to where she sat and threw my arms around her.
"How was the party?"
"Awesome, guess what?"
Just then, I sighted Sandra and Clifford walking hands to hands into the class. They waved to us and sat at the front of the class. Precious waved back but my hands had suddenly began too heavy to carry.
"Oh! My surprise has already come to limelight. Clifford and Sandra are dating." Precious revealed.
"What!" I puffed.
"Well, it happened at Ashley's birthday. Clifford got to know Sandra more. They talked and talked. They even danced and then Clifford said to me " I like this your friend." And I shrugged him a go ahead." She spoke fast. It was obvious she was excited about this.
Anger, envy, jealously, sadness, bitterness and many more crept into my heart. "So they are dating now?" I asked in a voice I didn't even recognize.
Precious seemed to notice as she asked "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine!" I smiled at her as i stood up and went straight to the ladies'. I sat on the toilet seat and streams of tears flowed down my cheeks. I like him, I kept muttering to myself. My chin quivered and I kept sniffing. I rolled lots of tissues as I dabbed my eyes. I spent about thirty minutes in the toilet before I came out and washed my face.
When I got back to class, Sandra was already sitting on my seat chatting with Precious.
"Get up from my seat" I blurted.
"Oh! Sorry." Sandra said as she stood up.
"Sorry for yourself." I pronounced.
"Are you okay?" Sandra asked.
"You're definitely not okay." I yelled. "You think you're so high and mighty? You think you're the prettiest girl. You look down on other people snatching what belongs to them."
Sandra opened her mouth. "Why are you saying all this hurtful words to me? Have I ever snatched anything that belonged to you?"
"Forget it!" I muttered as I sat down and faced the walls.
"Anita, why are you acting like this?" Precious asked.
"Tell me Anita, what did I do to make you this angry?" Sandra cajoled.
That soft voice, that gesture, everything kindled my anger. "You know what, let's end this friendship. We were better off just being two."
Their mouths hung opened.
Sandra kept disturbing me throughout that day and I got fed up and yelled right in her face "it's over." She twitched. "Fine!" She yelled back and walked away. I went through the rest of my classes with a steeled determination not to cry. I made it all the way home but as I locked the door to my bedroom, the door to my heart unlocked and jagged tears bit my face. I cried until I was empty. After crying, I became furious. I didn't want to talk to anyone. The next day at school, Precious kept asking what was wrong, which drove me crazy and made me even madder. I was resentful. Sandra stopped talking to me and I let her know I didn't care. I didn't want to go anywhere or see anyone. I went to school alone and came back alone. I asked my kid sister for movies which talked about a friend planning on how to destroy a relationship. I browsed on ways to scatter a relationship. "Sandra can't just have him like that." I said to myself.
On Thursday, my dad brought my invitation cards for my birthday party which was on Saturday. I gladly took it to school and shared it to everyone except Clifford and Sandra. I didn't give Clifford because I thought Sandra would tag along with him and come to my birthday party. I didn't want to see the two of them flirting and involving in various love plays. Precious confronted me and demanded why I left Sandra out. I told her it was my party and I decided who I wanted there.
Saturday morning was glamorous as mum and her friends decorated the sitting room. By ten o clock in the morning people had began to troop In. I put on the dazzling dress my dad bought for me specially for this party. As I sat on my decorated chair, I watched everyone who came checking to see if anyone came without invitation because my party was strictly by invitation. That was when I saw Sandra, in a lovely pink gown with red lipstick and braided hair. She looked prettier than me, the celebrant. I watched as Precious ran to her and hugged her. She whispered something into her ears and then looked at me. I stood to my feet as they approached me.
"I can't remember inviting you." I scoffed the moment they got to me.
"Oh! Anita don't start." Precious begged.
"This party is strictly by invitation and uninvited guests aren't allowed." I said completely ignoring Precious.
"I know I wasn't invited but I couldn't help but attend. Gosh! My best friend is having a birthday party. I have to celebrate with her."
"Ohh, I'm so touched." I mocked "well I don't need you to celebrate with me. Look, I don't want to be your friend anymore. That's the door. Leave!" I pointed to the door.
Precious gasped and Sandra eyes narrowed. I've hurt her and I'm glad cause she hurt me too. So much.
"Fine! If that's what you want." Then turning to Precious she said "you see. I told you I wasn't coming but you insisted I came now I have to bear this embarrassment. Clifford asked me to go with him to a movie show and I declined simply because of this dumb party." Then facing me "enjoy your stupid party."
"Enjoy your stupid date and boyfriend." I yelled back.
When she had finally left, Precious glared at me. "Don't start."
"What do you mean by don't start? How could you? What have become of you?" Precious asked.
"Nothing! I just got wiser. I realized the bitch that girl is."
"Bitch? You're being the bitch here." Precious yelled.
"Who are you to meddle in my life? What do you think you are?" I blurted out before I could think. She shook her head at me like I was a child going astray. Then she walked out and banged the door. People had been staring at us since. I walked to my room and sat on the bed. Let them go. Who needs them after all. I heard a knock on my door and I yelled "Go away!"
"Anita, It's me."
I quickly jumped up and opened the door. My mum stared at me.
"Ngozi told me you sent your friends away. What's going on?" My mum asked as she sat on my bed.
"Nothing is going on mum."
My mum peered at me through her eye lashes. "You've being acting weird lately. You no more go to school with your friends. Precious told me everything."
"Oh yeah! Talking behind my backs now. She's showing her true colour."
"Oh! Stop it Anita. She's worried about you. Tell me what's wrong."
"Nothing is wrong. I realised what a jerk my friends were."
"Why did you say that?"
I stood up and faced my mirror. "She knew I liked him yet she still went ahead. She just wanted to show me she's much more prettier. She's deliberately doing this to hurt me." I blurted out.
"What do you mean?" My mum asked confused.
After my narration, my mum let out a big sigh. "Your friends don't deserve the way you're treating them especially Sandra. You made it clear that you didn't like Clifford so that means anyone could have him."
"That's because I didn't want to be an object of mockery." I sobbed. It's been long I cried and now the tears were gushing out rapidly despite my attempt to hold back. My mum hugged me tight. "Look! You're losing everything and hurting yourself. What do I use to tell you and your sister? Don't ever say no when you really want to say yes. Frankly, i'm glad it didn't work out well for you because you ought to face your studies now. So stop harbouring anger and creating enmity. You're even ruining your party Speaking of party, we need to get back."
When I got back to the sitting room where the party was holding, the emcee, my dad brought came to me. "Where have you been? It's time to cut the cake." She dragged me to where my huge cake was standing and then announced my cutting of the cake. While I was cutting the cake, I sighted Precious sitting on the sofa near the stairs sipping her juice. I gasped, I thought she had left already. After cutting the cake, I walked to her and sat on the sofa. I took a sip from her glass of juice and she stared at me.
"I'm sorry." I said. She didn't reply which made me feel she didn't hear me.
"I'm sorry!" I said much louder and still no reply. "I realised what a jerk I had been lately. You're right. I've been the bitch."
She stared at me and said "so you've finally come to your senses. What happened? What came over you?"
"I like Clifford." I told her making her gasp. "Right from the very first day I set my eyes on him. I liked him."
"But you said you didn't." She muttered softly.
"That was just a big lie. I didn't want to be teased." I sighed.
With a low voice, she said "I was very happy when I thought you liked him. If I was to choose a girlfriend for Clifford it would be you Anita. Yes you, you're a soft minded person. I was already drafting out plans on how to match you two. But then, you said you weren't interested. What was I supposed to do when Clifford said he liked Sandra and Sandra liked him too?"
Huge lump formed in my throat and I could feel my eyes get wet. I quickly dabbed it away. I can't be crying on my birthday.
"It could have been you Anita. Anyway, what's done is done. You had no right to treat Sandra that way. You're the one at fault."
"I know I'm the one at fault. Instead of me to take it out on myself I took it out on you guys and for that I'm truly sorry." I apologized.
"I'm not the problem Anita, Sandra is." Precious informed.
I hated things like apology that's why I hardly did anything to hurt anybody. This hot Sunday afternoon, I'm drafting out plans upon plans on how to apologize to Sandra. Should I call her on phone or text message or write letter with pen ink? Screw it all! I decided to go for it.
Sandra was sitting on the front step listening to music I guess with her ear piece. When she saw me, she pulled our the earpiece and stood up.
"Hey!" I called out.
"What's up?" She replied coldly.
I hesitated and when she asked again, I said "I came here to apologize to you. Lately I've been very hostile to you and that's because you're dating Clifford. I was so angry with you for dating him because I like him and I thought you stole him from me. But I was wrong. Everything was my fault and I'm so ashamed for the way I've been treating you."
Sandra eyes opened wide at my confession. "You really hurt me Anita. You said a lot of hurtful things to me. You even walked me out of your birthday party. You embarrassed me. You....." She choked and stared deep into space.
"I know and I'm truly sorry. I'm sorry for venting out my anger on you instead of myself. Find a place in your heart to forgive me." I sobbed. Harder and harder.
She placed her hands on my shoulders and hugged me. It felt so nice to feel her warmth once again. That was when I realized how much I missed her. Sandra might be a loud and fashion crazy girl but she was a great friend everyone would wish to have.