Dad looked up as he just realized I was standing there. Then, he said the very words I never thought I’d ever hear.
“I just don’t know how to tell you this Michelle, but we…were du…ped of a very huge amount of money and now we’ve… ” he paused “We’ve gone ba…bank… bankrupt. ”
I didn’t hear all what he said. All I heard was the word ‘bankrupt’.
And in a moment I couldn’t understand, the floor and my face suddenly became friends. I felt myself slipping away and the last thing I heard was someone calling my name from afar.
I awoke to a great feeling of pain in my head. With my eyes still closed, I raised my hand towards the spot the pain was coming from and was met with a large bump. I winced in pain as my hand came in contact with the bump. I tried opening my eyes but everything was blur.
Where was I?
I turned to my left and saw a figure. Then my sight cleared and I could see that the figure was my mum’s.
“Oh my baby you’re awake,” Mum said with worry etched on her face.
“Where am I, mum?” I asked.
“The hospital dear. You fainted. How are you feeling now?”
“My head hurts.”
“Sorry sweetie. It would soon stop hurting.”
“Where’s Dad and Max?” I asked.
“They went to get something to eat,” Mum replied.
That instant, the door opened and I winced as I turned towards it to see my dad and Max carrying two lunchboxes.
“How are you dear?” Dad asked.
“I’m fine, just that my head hurts.”
“Sorry dear. I brought you lunch.” He handed me a flask. “Eat so that you can take your pain killer.”
I collected the flask, and with the help of dad and Max, I sat up in bed. Then I dug into the food.
Man, this food is delicious. Little did I know that that’s the last time I’ll eat such a tasty meal.
“Here.” Max handed me a cup of water and pain killer after eating.
“Thanks.” I took the medicine gingerly.
Argh I hate taking medicine but I had no choice.
After taking it, Mum collected the cup from me as I tried hard to not puke out the medicine.
“Have some rest dear,” Mum urged.
I slowly lowered myself to the bed.
“Take care lil sis,” Max said teasingly. Everyone knew that I hated being called that.
I shot him a glare which he replied with a smile. That infuriated me the more and I intensified my glare. Not minding that the pain in my head had multiplied. “Why the frown lil sis?”
I ignored him.
Mum chuckled when she saw the look on my face. Then she glared half seriously at him.
“Naughty boy. Leave your sister alone.”
He smiled. “Alright mum.”
“Get some rest sweetie,” Mum said as she kissed my forehead.
Then they left the room.
The next day, I was discharged and I was in my room listening to music when mum came in and sat beside me on the bed.
“How are you dear?
“Better than before.”
“Alright,” she said.
I looked at her and I could see that she wanted to say something, but didn’t know how to say it.
“Mum what’s it?” I asked.
“It’s nothing dear.”
“Don’t tell me that mum. I’m no longer a little kid, you know.”
Mum hesitated then she decided to talk. “Uhmm sweetie, I don’t know if I should tell you this now, but since you insisted… ” She paused and I gave her the go-ahead look. “You have to start packing your things today. We are owing the bank a huge amount of money and we’ve been instructed to vacate the house within five days.”
“What!” I shouted in shock, “you’re kidding me right?”
“I’m sorry dear, but as much as I wish I am, I’m not joking,” Mum said sadly.
Oh em gee. This can’t be happening. It just can’t. Well perhaps we’re moving to somewhere better. This thought confronted me.
“Where are we moving to, mum? ” I asked
“You’ll know when we get there. Just start packing your things.”
I looked at the place dad said would be our new home and I couldn’t help but feel like fainting.
It was a bungalow which consisted of the sitting room, two rooms a tiny toilet and kitchen. Each room was a quarter the size of my room in the other house. In fact, the whole house was one-tenth the size of the former house.
“What! We’re going to live in this shack?” I asked mum.
“Yes dear. It’s the best we can afford”
I looked from dad to mum in order to check if this was a joke, but I saw they were bearing serious expressions.
“This is a joke right?” I decided to ask. Mum shook her head in the negative.
“It isn’t dear,” Dad answered.
I pinched myself to make sure it wasn’t a dream.
Yeah, it wasn’t. It was real
“There’s no way I’m going to live in this shack,” I complained.
“We have no choice. You should be grateful that you have a roof over your head”
“Grateful? I don’t think so. This place is worse than not having a roof at all,” I countered.
“It isn’t. And this conversation is over. We’re going to live here and that’s final,” Dad said.
I wanted to protest but the look dad shot at me shut me up.
I just couldn’t believe this was happening. Almighty Michelle O’Connor as those juniors had said is now po…poor.
I just couldn’t believe it.
“If you know you haven’t paid for the excursion, endeavor to pay for it before Wednesday as that’s the deadline. Is that clear?” Mr Richmond announced during Monday’s assembly.
“Yes sir,” we chorused.
“Michelle O’Connor report to my office after assembly. Assembly dismissed.”
Fear gripped my heart and I started wondering what could’ve made the principal call me to his office. Perhaps he’d found out about the girl I’d stepped on on purpose and refused to apologize to. Or perhaps he found out about the frog I’d put in one of those juniors’ locker which had led to her fainting and being rushed to the clinic, I wondered.
But that can’t be it, as those were minor crimes which usually didn’t get to the principal’s ears. Moreover, no one has caught me putting the frog there. I was sure about that.
I walked to the office with Amy who was my partner in crime. She was assuring me that it was nothing serious.
I entered the principal’s office and was met by his secretary—Mrs Freda—a grumpy woman who was always seen with a frown.
“Morning Mrs Freda,” we greeted but received a grunt of incomprehensible words.
The woman sure was grumpy.
“Mr Richmond is waiting for you. Go in,” she murmured.
I went in while Amy stayed behind with the grump.
“Have your seat,” Mr Richmond commanded immediately I got inside.
I sat and started twirling my fingers in anxiety as I waited for the bombshell to drop.
“What’s wrong Michelle, this is unlike you. Why haven’t you paid your excursion fee? The deadline is in two day’s time, you know.”
I sighed in relief. I wasn’t in trouble afterall.
A small piece of my mind told me to spill my guts but it was immediately shunned by the larger part.
What! Spill my guts and face a lot of embarrassment, I can’t do that.
“It slipped my mind. I’ll pay it tomorrow,” I lied.
“Alright make sure you do. Don’t let it slip your mind again. Is that clear?”
“Yes sir. Thank you sir.”
“You can leave.”
I stood up and walked out with one thought on my mind—how I would get the money.
Truth be told, I’d asked dad for the money and he’d told me he didn’t have any money to give me. I’d cried my eyes out that day. I contemplated telling Amy about our poverty; afterall she’s my bestie, but I threw that thought away.
How can I tell her? And face humiliation? No way.
I entered the grump’s office and Amy stood up from the seat she’d been sitting on. We bade her goodbye, but as expected, we received an inaudible muttered comment.
Amy asked me why Mr Richmond had called me, but I just formulated a lie. We walked back to class.
I had only one thought in mind—how to get the money within less than 24 hours.
- Etoniru Favour is a Nigerian and a student of the prestigious University of Benin. She's a talented writer.