NADIA: Listen; there are two ways to learn: The easy way and the hard way. My guess was, mine would be hard. Not just hard, but extremely hard.
I had burned in flames and angrily started towards the door, expecting her to call me back. But she didn't say a word. As I approached the door, I deliberately lingered a bit. Still, not a single word.
My mind had to remind me to make good use of the little sense of reasoning I had in my head. I gently turned back and collected the plate from her.
"Make sure you wash all the dishes!"
I closed my eyes and bit my lips, trying so hard to compress the anger I felt.
DANIEL: The text I received turned my whole world upside down. I read it over and over again. I wanted Akin to confirm the text, but I figured this was just too confidential. In the end, he read it aloud, "Dan, your father is alive. I mean your real father".
"Is that what the text says?" I asked.
"Emm... that's what I read bro. What does this mean? You lost your father years back?"
I nodded in affirmation.
"Who sent this?"
It took me time to finally answer;
Akin remained quiet for a while. I guess he didn't want to pry into my personal life without my consent. I signaled him to go ahead.
"Do you trust your uncle?" he asked.
"Why is he now telling you this? Is there something he intends to gain from this?"
"Something like what?" I was quick to ask.
"Maybe, he is trying to bring some misunderstanding between you and your mum. I mean you would definitely hate your mum for a while for keeping such a big secret from you."
He made sense, but I wasn't satisfied.
My uncle included an address in the text message he sent; he wanted us to meet there. So I stole out of the academy to see things for myself, only to discover he had planned to kill me.
On arrival there, I suspected the secluded area he chose. And then I noticed some suspicious men hanging around. I didn’t just bother to go further; I took off with my legs flying in the air, even before he saw me.
NADIA: My expectations concerning my planned private lessons were so high that I felt I would go crazy just by thinking about it; I felt my head splitting into two as I thought of my first food lessons: Maybe fried rice or jollof rice. I’d set my expectations on those sweet-classic foods, only for the old lady to slash my expectations by half, right from the source when she requested that I prepare pap.
My eyes went dim; the sudden look of disappointment was written all over my face.
“Like seriously? Pap!? What does this woman take me for!?” I thought aloud to no one in particular but my self.
"What are you doing?"
Her eyes went wide; she watched as I tried to boil the raw pap.
"Making pap nah!" I replied.
She shook her head. There and there, I realised she has a lot of teaching to do.
"Nadia, do you love cooking?"
It was an honest question. But I wondered why she asked while I was trying to prepare the pap that would land her in a hospital bed.
"Yes! I love cooking!"
I lied; she knew I was telling lies.
"Tell me the truth," she pushed on.
I saw no reason to cling to my lies so I finally opened up, "No, Ma. Cooking sucks!"
She burst out laughing; I wondered why she laughed.
"Why are you here?” she asked, “Why do you want to learn?"
What is really wrong with this woman? I had previously told her the solid reasons behind my desire to learn how to cook.
"To prove to Wilson that I can cook!"
She walked up to me and collected the bowl I held - contained in it was the raw pap.
"Tell me what you've learnt so far!"
I tried to crack my brain, but I couldn’t come up with anything, not even the ingredients for the Egyptian hawawshi.
"Listen, Brenda picked you and your crew..."
I interrupted her by raising up my hand, "Wait, how did you know that? Who are you?"
I had to ask. She was making me totally confused.
"That's not the point...” she brushed my question aside. “You need to be informed that there are lots of people in your group who might probably kill just to get to where you girls are presently.”
I attempted to protest a little further but she butt in again;
"And you will all fail, because you don't enjoy what you do. In this world where you find yourself, particularly this academy, you’ve got to trust no one; no one is seeking for your good. Not even your supervisor can be trusted. Your roommate can't be trusted. I can't be trusted. You can't be trusted."
Her words meant nothing more than riddles; I wasn’t getting the point. Is this an academy or a war front?
"You make it seem like I’m in the middle of a war."
"Yes, you are. There is a competition that holds every five years with a prize tag of 5 million dollars, in addition to a sponsorship deal to open your own food plaza. Your supervisors are aspiring to win this too because it begins this year. What makes you think she would teach you guys all she knows? What makes you think your seniors wouldn’t try to eliminate you if they she the potentials in you?”
She got me confused.
"Ma, I don't understand what you’re driving at."
"My point is simple: Enjoy cooking – see it as your life; keep your progress and skills a secret from everyone; and trust no one."
After such a lengthy talk, I headed back to my room. As I walked, I thought about everything she had told me, but I still couldn’t find answers to one particular question: “Who is this woman?”
She made it clear to me that she herself can’t be trusted. Should I trust her, or not? What is really going on in this academy? Should I just abandon everything and escape now that it's still safe?
I finally got to understand what she meant when I got back to my room, to find Joyce unconscious, bleeding profusely.
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