MY HEART BEAT
A for apple, B for ball, C for cat….” The children in Femi’s nursery 2 class chanted in excitement. She used her rod to point at the objects while the children recited. Her class wasn’t very big, she had only 9 children in her class, 3 girls and 6 boys. The boys were mostly chanting except Christopher, who was kneeling in the corner for pulling on Imelda’s hair.
Imelda was a pretty, quiet 4 year old with soulful eyes and Christopher had taken to bullying her in the past few weeks. Personally, she thought he had a crush on her and like most boys his age, he was acting out. Whatever his reasons though, she couldn’t let it continue especially when Imelda’s eyes were still red and tears threatened to spill out at any minute.
Of the girls, Lanke was the only one reciting as Imelda was still struggling to recover. Lanke was her best student, dark skinned and brilliant, Lanke excelled at everything and for a five year old, she was extremely self-assured and in total control, sometimes Femi felt Lanke was a very old woman in a very young body.
The last girl, Amanda was a different kettle of fish. She had joined her class at the beginning of the previous term and so far she hadn’t done well or interacted properly with the rest of the class. Femi had tried talking to her and realised Amanda responded well when she spoke to her but retreated into her shell when she had to do anything to do with her classmates or others.
This wouldn’t have bothered Femi as much if she was doing well in her school work, but she wasn’t and Femi was at a loss as to what to do about her. She had already decided however that she would look at Amanda’s result this term and then write a letter to the school’s Proprietress if her results showed she hadn’t made any headway.
Poor darling, she thought to herself. She loved children a lot, in fact, she had always thought that at 25, she would be married with at least 2 children of her own. She was 27 now and still no child or marriage for that matter.
When she had moved to her Uncle’s house, she had made pocket money by babysitting for several children in the neighbourhood. She remembered the joy with which the children had run to her calling her Aunty Femi. She figured early she wanted to work with children but she had assumed she would be a paediatrician or child psychologist. She hadn’t had the brains for either and now, she was doing something equally fulfilling, she was teaching and moulding children.
By break time, Imelda had settled and was eating quietly, Christopher had apologised and was sitting down looking contrite, and the other boys were laughing and stuffing their mouths with their lunch of yam and pepper sauce. Lanke was looking at them with a disdain only a child can perfect and Amanda was at the back of the class, staring at the others, her food untouched.
Femi left her table and went to kneel beside Amanda,
Femi: “Baby, why aren’t you eating?”
Amanda: “Nothing,” Amanda sighed
Femi: “Don’t you like the food?” She asked, knowing that wasn’t the answer, Amanda hardly ate the School provided lunch even though the food was well cooked.
Amanda shook her head.
Femi: “Should I feed you?” Amanda shook her head again. Nonetheless, Femi took up the fork and waved a piece of yam in front of Amanda’s tiny mouth. The little girl took that and ate some more before deciding she didn’t want more.
By the time Femi returned to her sit, she decided she had at last come to a decision about Amanda. She was determined to see it through to the end. For whatever reason, Amanda wasn’t responding well to the general classes, as shown by her test results so far. She felt sure that Amanda will respond better to one on one classes.
She made up her mind to write to the Proprietress now instead of waiting till the end of term to see what they could do for Amanda.
Mrs Ingalam was a very strict woman, a devout Christian and a lover of God, she suffered no fools and hated having incompetent imbeciles around her. That was why her school, Reign Academy was such an overwhelming success. She got the best money could buy and any child that passed through her school was sure to receive the best.
When employing her teachers, she didn’t just get those who had great results and teaching skills, she also wanted people who were loving, natural nurturers. Of course, with the amount parents paid to have their children in her school, she wanted to assure them of top value and quality education.
Of her Ninety-eight members of staff, she had 2 child counsellors and 2 psychologists and she paid them good money per child their services were required.
When she received Miss Femi Olaosebikan’s letter about Amanda Arowolo, she didn’t waste time didling. Femi, in her observation was a natural teacher, a gifted young lady who had started with her years ago as a part time staff. After realising the girl’s gift with children, she had made her a full member of staff and had not regretted it till date as the girl had proved herself over and over again.
The news about Amanda wasn’t a huge surprise, she had sometimes observed the girl in class through the secret cameras in her office and she had seen her, often alone on the playground. Amanda was the granddaughter of the Minister for health and her father was the MD of renowned Saint Havers Hospital so she had to thread with caution.
She had asked her psychologists to check Amanda out and they both decided that while Amanda had no learning disabilities, she seemed to have problems keeping up in such a boisterous environment and felt a little left out. They offered that Amanda receive home lessons for a while so they could see if her performance would improve.
Which was why Mrs Ingalam was sitting in her office waiting for Dr. Fiyin Arowolo to keep their 2 ‘o’ clock appointment. When she heard the phone ring, she picked it up and listened as her secretary made her know that Dr Arowolo was around.
“Let him in” she said and barely 40 seconds later, he was in her office, his handsome face creased in worries. “Dr. Arowolo, it’s a pleasure to see you again..” she said as she shook his hands. “Thank you for coming, please have your seat” She gestured towards the chairs in front of her table.
Fiyin: “Is there a problem ma’am?” He asked as he sat down.
Mrs Ingalam: “No sir, none at all!” She was quick to assure him, “would you like to have anything?”
Fiyin: “No, I’m fine, thank you ma, if there isn’t a problem, why have you invited me?”
Mrs Ingalam: “Oh, it was nothing, I wanted to talk to you about your daughter, Amanda.”
Fiyin: “I figured as much, what is the problem?”
Mrs Ingalam: “Sir there isn’t really a problem, it’s just Amanda hasn’t been keeping up in her class. She cleared her throat, what I mean to say is she isn’t doing so well.”
Fiyin sighed, “What do I do? She had the same problem at her former school and my mother recommended I bring her here that you would be able to handle it. Isn’t she doing better?”
Mrs Ingalam: “Sir, its not beyond us to handle Amanda’s case but as you may be aware as a parent, what works for one child might not work for the other. At Reign Academy, we are committed to taking care of each child in accordance to their special needs and with procedures that will work for them individually.”
Fiyin felt a weight on his chest, it seemed he had tried all he could to help Amanda do better at school but this was the 3rd school and it didn’t seem to have worked. Maybe he would take her out of school for a while and whenever she was ready, she could start again.
Mrs Ingalam: “We have had Amanda assessed by our excellent team of child psychologists and we agreed that the problem is not so much Amanda’s inability to learn but the environment.”
Fiyin: “Maybe, youre right, she plays at home when she’s alone or with family but freezes up around strangers.”
Mrs Ingalam: “Exactly!” Mrs Ingalam said with excitement. “And we decided that the solution will be for Amanda to be home schooled for a while……”
Fiyin: “Home schooled?! How?!”
Mrs Ingalam: “Yes. The teacher will come home and take her for her lessons. Depending on how she performs, we can bring her back in a next session.”
Fiyin: “But the teacher will still be a stranger to her?” He asked, unsure.
Mrs Ingalam: “No, we would pick a teacher she already gets along with. Her present class teacher, Miss Femi Olaosebikan.”
Fiyin sighed, “And you think it will work?”
Mrs Ingalam: “We will give it a good trial, Miss Olaosebikan is a committed teacher, very kind and gifted, which is what Amanda needs. She was the one who first told me Amanda will benefit from one on one classes and I trust her explicitly.”
Fiyin: “Alright, let’s do it. I hope it works out.” Fiyin sounded hopeful, he was willing to try out anything that would help Amanda out.
Mrs Ingalam: “Very well sir,” she said as she stood up. “I will decide on a schedule with Miss Olaosebikan and get back to you.”
He also stood up and they shook hands “Thank you ma’am, you’ve been a big help. I’ll talk to you as soon as possible.” He said as he left her office.
MY HEART BEAT
It was 4pm already and there was no sign of Miss Femi yet, Amanda thought to herself as she looked out the window of the massive sitting room in her father’s house. Miss Femi was never late, never. In the 6 weeks since her home classes had started, Miss Femi came at precisely 3pm four days a week without fail. So, what happened today, she wondered.
Nanny: “Mandy!” Aunty Ose, her nanny, called from the dining area, “come away from the window!” “Your standing there will not make your teacher come any quicker and if she comes and you haven’t eaten, you’ll only delay her….”
Amanda: “But I’ve done my homework, I want her to see it, I did it by myself, why won’t she come and see it?” Amanda whined hopelessly. She was getting better, Aunty Femi said so, she even knew her 2 times table now, where was Aunty Femi?
In her excitement to show her aunty her homework which she had done by herself, she hadn’t even felt hungry and now Aunty Femi had refused to come, why? What had she done wrong? She wondered as she rested her head against the leather chair and started crying.
Nanny: “Ha!” Ose exclaimed and rushed to gather the small body in her arms, “Okay, I’ll call her, stop crying, she will soon come, you hear?” She said as she cleaned Amanda’s leaking eyes and carried her to the dining table.
They had barely sat down when they heard Fiyin’s horn. “Daddy’s back!” Amanda shouted in excitement and rushed out of the house to greet her father.
Fiyin: “Baby girl!” Fiyin exclaimed as Amanda ran out of the house and into his legs. He grabbed her and threw her up, “How are you?” He asked and then saw the faint marks of tears on her face, “What happened?” he asked, concerned as he saw Ose standing by the dinning.
Nanny: “Nothing sir, she was just disappointed that her teacher had not come…”
Fiyin: “Why hasn’t her teacher come?” He asked in confusion. In the 6 weeks Femi had been coming to teach Amanda, he had noticed a few things he didn’t like about her but her skill, dedication and timeliness had never been in question.
Nanny: “I spoke to her just now and she said she was on her way, today was open day at the school and she couldn’t leave on time.” Ose explained quickly.
Fiyin: “Couldn’t she have called you or me to let us know, instead of letting Amanda cry?”
Ose just shrugged, not having any particular answer.
Fiyin dropped Amanda who was now cheerier and grumbled under his breath. Femi was extremely scatter brained sometimes. While he liked her dedication to his daughter and her ability to teach, he was hard pressed to think of anything else he liked about Miss Olaosebikan.
She always dressed like a clown without a fashion sense, wearing ridiculous brightly coloured ensembles. She had a low self-esteem and was never assertive enough, she would never say the same things twice, always changing her mind if she thought what she said did not please her hearer and he had noticed she seemed to be suffering from an addiction to chocolate and all its variants, no wonder she was fat.
Once, he heard her talking to a guy he assumed was her boyfriend and he couldn’t help laughing, he couldn’t believe a creature like that had a man in her life but stranger things had happened. She was pretty enough, if you liked big eyes and full lips on a woman and she had lovely hair which was hardly ever made in any other style except weaving, she wore no makeup except the horrid orange lipstick that made her lips look even fuller and her sandals or slippers were forever cutting. Of the over 24 days she had been coming to his house, she had looked for a shoemaker at least 13 times.
He sighed and rubbed his beard, hoping that her horrible influence and taste did not rub off on Amanda who idolized her teacher. Of course, they wouldn’t be together long enough, even he could see Amanda had improved well enough under her Teacher’s golden influence. He was planning that by September, he would return Amanda back to normal schooling. It was April, that should give Femi less than 4 more months to permanently corrupt Amanda.
On a brighter note, he thought as he went climbed upstairs to his bedroom on the first floor, he had a date with Tiwa. In the past few weeks, he had tried to get a feel as to how she would react to the idea of a date and when he realized she was forthcoming, he had played his shot four days ago.
Now, it was Friday and he had a plan to take her to his country club on the Island for a very relaxing time. He had every intention of getting to know her outside work, her past and everything that made her tick. He smiled to himself as he entered the shower, wondering just what his father would think when he heard. The Minister would be ecstatic.
He was picking her up by 5pm and he was wondering if he shouldn’t change his plans for the day from the island as the Friday traffic to that area might be ridiculous. They might end up spending most of their night in the car at that rate. He was still ruminating when he heard the door open followed by Femi’s voice downstairs.
“Amanda!” She squealed in excitement. He didn’t have to be there to picture Amanda running into her outstretched arms. He had seen it often enough. He remembered now there was something else he liked about Femi, her voice. It sounded like whatever angels sounded like. Last week Monday, he had been going to the kitchen for a glass of juice, more to stretch his legs than anything else when he heard her singing. He couldn’t explain what he had felt that day and he had decided not to examine it too closely.
He had walked into the study that day and warned her never to sing in the house again especially when she was supposed to be teaching his daughter her lessons. He hadn’t expected a reply or defence and he hadn’t gotten one anyway. Voiceful or voiceless, Femi was a necessary nuisance and in 4 months, he need not see her in his house again.
He finished dressing, called Tiwa to ask her if she was ready, she said almost and he cut the call and left his room. On his way downstairs, he heard Femi talking to Amanda and decided to stop and say bye to Amanda. And to see what Femi was wearing today. And to see if her slippers or sandals was in need of mending. And to see if she still had on that horrible lipstick she usually wore.
Femi was trying really hard to teach Amanda a nursery song without making too much noise but it was a very tough call and she was whispering. She couldn’t help but feel dismayed at this, no nursery rhyme should be taught by whispering but she had been warned by Dr Arowolo not to sing out loud in his house again.
She could only grimace when she thought back to the day he had found her singing, he had been so mad. She knew she had a bad habit of singing wherever she found herself but no one had ever minded or reacted so strongly, in fact people usually complimented her voice whenever they heard her singing. The way he reacted, one would think she had the voice of a bull frog.
“Hey, baby.” She heard Mr Arowolo as he entered and grabbed Amanda and she realised she had been lost in thought. She turned her face as Amanda started giggling when her dad tickled her belly. It was hard to believe Amanda was the same quiet, mousy girl from her class. At home, Amanda was active, playful and loving, she laughed a lot and she also loved singing.
Amanda: “Daddy, you smell nice, where are you going?” Amanda asked, sniffing her father.
Fiyin: “Somewhere that doesn’t concern you, small stuff!” Her father replied, sniffing her back.
Femi felt her heart clench as she looked at both of them. They were so beautiful. Amanda with her big smile and twinkling eyes. And Dr Arowolo, she sighed. The man was a vision of perfection, with his long legs, broad shoulders, his intelligent eyes and his mouth that always seemed to smile at everyone but her.
She knew she was too old for a crush, she was 27 for God’s sake but she couldn’t really help herself when it came to Fiyin Arowolo. She liked everything about him and sometimes, when she was daydreaming, she pictured her boyfriend, David looking exactly like him. And talking like him. And walking like him too.
She knew how foolish her fantasies were, she knew a man as learned as Dr Arowolo could never, ever want a woman like her. She had seen pictures of his late wife when Amanda had taken her to see her room and she knew that type of woman was the type that got a man like him. Intelligent eyes, beautiful body, polish, smarts, confidence and boldness. Traits she did not have and would never have.
More than that, she could tell the man did not like her and only tolerated her for his daughter’s sake. He looked at her like she was a maggot and sometimes she felt he came to check on her classes with Amanda to make sure she did not infect his daughter with her terrible ways. No wonder he didn’t want her singing around his house.
She couldn’t understand what he found so disagreeable about her, she knew she wasn’t all that special but generally, people tended to like her. Besides her cousin, Tiwa, no one had disliked her so quickly before and she hated that it was someone she happened to like and respect that didn’t like her back. It lessened her self-confidence and made her feel really stupid and awkward in his presence.
Fiyin: “So, what are you doing?” Fiyin asked Amanda as he dropped her back in her seat.
Amanda: “We are learning a rhyme, ring around the roses…..”
Fiyin: “Oh, that was one of my favourites when I was young, your aunties and I used to play games with it.”
Amanda: “Really?” Amanda asked, trying to picture her father as a child.
Fiyin: “Yes, baby, really.”
Amanda: “Well, we can’t sing it, Aunty Femi said you said we are disturbing you. Are we disturbing you, daddy?” She asked innocently
Fiyin: “No, I…., I of course, I didn’t say that,” he sputtered, looking accusingly at Femi, “I don’t know where your teacher got that idea!”
Femi: “Sir, but you said last week that is should not…..”
Fiyin: “I said you shouldn’t sing, did I say you should not teach?”
Femi: “How would i teach a rhyme without singing it?” She muttered.
Fiyin: “What? What did you say?”
Femi: “Nothing, nothing sir.”
Fiyin: “I thought as much!” He said in triumph, noting that she still had on her ugly lipstick. “Alright baby, bye, I will check on you when I get back.” He said as he kissed his daughter’s head.
Amanda: “Bye, daddy.” Amanda returned as he gave Femi a dirty look and left the room.
Amanda: “Does that mean we can sing now?” Amanda asked.
Femi: “Yes, I think so.” Femi answered, her thoughts faraway. He succeeded in making me sound like an idiot as usual, she told herself sadly as she heard his car start and drive away.
One day, one day she promised herself, I will be something, I will have a wonderful husband and I’ll be slimmer with very nice clothes then I’ll go to his hospital and register there.
You’ll see, Doctor Arowolo, you’ll see!
Question: I don’t see it coming the friendship between Femi and Fiyin. Do you agree?