Akweley hid behind the big neem tree at the canteen. She wanted assembly to close before she went to class. She couldn’t stand being the gossip item of the girls at assembly as they giggled and pointed at her as they laughed. Today was her first time wearing a bra to school. Her uniform was white and tight at the top because of her bust, so it meant the bra lines would draw behind the dress. None of the other girls wore bras. They didn’t even have pebbles appearing on their chest, talk less of breasts that warranted wearing bras to keep them in check.
Her ascent into adolescence has always left a bitter experience in her mouth, nothing interesting ever happened. Coupled with the fact that her twin Akorkor was not as fast a developer as her, it made her self esteem worse. No one ever said anything good about her growth spurt, she was always the odd one out and treated as such.
Clutching the tree for dear life, her mind went to all the major embarrassing moments she had experienced so far. It had started with the move to the new school, the old school had other fast developing girls like her and so she wasn’t really noticeable. Besides she was the intelligent but quiet type so she didn’t really get mocked.
Mama had decided to sew long uniforms for them. She had said that the uniforms needed to be long enough so they could last them through their whole time in Junior High. Akorkor had protested and eventually cut it and hemmed it perfectly with a thread and needle, so much you could think a machine had actually done the alteration. But she was too weak to break Mama’s heart.
Mama trusted her to be the law abiding one, and so she came to her new school on her first day with her brown school uniform almost at her ankle and quite a heavy bust. She looked like a bottle that had been disproportionately designed. She was the laughing stock for the rest of the term, until she cried so much, Mama had to let Akorkor work her magic on hers too. She became the most happiest girl in school. People still didn’t talk to her because they felt she wasn’t cool, but she was good. At least, she was confident just a little now.
Until that day happened. One morning, she had seen blood in her panties and reported it to Mama. Mama assumed she may have hurt herself with all the tree climbing and bicycle riding so wrote it off. But when the blood appeared again the next day, she went back and now she remembered clearly her social studies class.
Her menstruation had started. But she was just 11, and even her 13 year old cousin hadn’t started hers yet. Akweley endured the pain of having to learn to clean up herself, ensure she was always well prepared for her day, especially in those red letter days of the month. But really, how careful could a girl be?
That fateful afternoon, they had just finished writing the first paper for the day, but she felt so wet, she knew she couldn’t afford getting up and so remained stuck on that chair until the second exams was done. When she finally got up, there was blood on her chair. Fortunately for her, they brought their own chairs, so it wasn’t a desk anyone would ever have sat on again anyways. But that didn’t make her life any better.
The heavy flow had stained the whole back of her dress, her only saviour was that they were still wearing the brown pinafore dress as uniform. She didn’t bring a bag to cover her back, so she had to walk with her dress adjusted to one side to hide the blood stains all the way from her school away from the town, back into the town. Akorkor only had male friends, so she had to deal with their curious stares of wondering why she had shifted her dress aside. That went down in her books as the most humiliating day ever.
The rustling of leaves temporarily captured her mind away from the melancholic memory train she had plunged herself into. She turned only to see Koku Akpabli, one of the very bright guys in her class, who she secretly wanted to befriend but didn’t have the guts to. Besides, she had too much going on with her whole adolescence that she couldn’t deal with someone she liked so much seeing her blush red with embarrassment when those “not very proud” moments happened.
He smiled at her and kept standing there. Apparently, also hiding from assembly for some reason. She didn’t know what else to say to him so she turned and continued clutching the tree. Her personal awareness heightening in a frightening way, as she realised he was behind her and could clearly see the bra strips in her dress. The exact thing she was hiding away here for. Maybe that’s why he kept that smile on his face. Oh no, she bent down and stayed squatting with her hands over her eyes.
In a few seconds, she was back to reliving the situation that had caused all of this bra issue in the first place. Mama upon realising she had started developing breasts so early apparently thought it unusual, so she did what every good traditionally raised mother did. She got a stone which was soaked in water overnight and used it to grind the lumps.
Hoping that it would disintegrate and then she could continue being flat chested till she was older enough to develop breasts. That was the most hurting decision Mama could ever have made. As it seemed the breast in a bid not to be pushed to the back burner fought so hard and eventually grew too big for her little chest to carry without bobbing up and down. Which left her no choice than to succumb to the bra thing. Now she was stuck with this unsightly thing that caused her so much embarrassment.
The hand on her shoulder shaking her brought her back to reality. She lifted her face to gaze into some of the most unassuming yet beautiful eyes her shy eyes had ever seen. Koku smiled down at her again and motioned for her to get up so they get to class. It was only then that she realised assembly had closed and everyone had gone to their classes.
Her morning just gave her two options for the day. Either suck all the sadness and embarrassment from the memories and have an inherently bad day without anyone even trying to make it bad for her. Or engrave the smile Koku gave her and his amazing eyes in her memory to have an inherently good day even if others tried to ruin it. She chose the latter. Afterall, adolescence can be what you make it right?
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