DANIEL: I understood immediately that something had gone wrong; the frown on Nadia’s face revealed this to me.
My phone rang; it was the head security at Kayode's kitchen.
"Sir, he escaped. Wilson has escaped, sir."
My heart beat against my chest. I stood up immediately in an attempt to go out, but Nadia's plight hit my conscience again. I sat back and signaled Joyce; she in turn signaled Sharon, and then Sharon did same to Jessy.
Simultaneously, they got up from their sits and met me outside.
"Something is wrong with Nadia. My guess is, Brenda has done something..." Joyce pointed out even before I dropped the obvious.
"Wilson has escaped!"
I knew it was another form of trouble but I had to say it.
The shock on their faces clearly tell they were equally thinking of the damage he could cause.
"That's bad, really bad. What do we do?” Jesse said and crossed his hands, quite open for ideas, “You have to go back to Kayode's kitchen."
We remained quiet for the next one minute.
"Who is speaking up? Time is what we don't have on our side; we've got to act as soon as possible."
Sharon spoke up with an agitated gesture.
"OK. This is what we will do: I’ll hit the fire alarm...”
Jessy didn't let Joyce complete her statement; she interrupted with a sigh of relief, "Oh my God! That’s a brilliant idea."
"You girls should get to Nadia in the course of confusion and help her with whatever problem she might be facing. Sharon, this is Nadia’s phone; give it to her.”
“Daniel, quickly send a text to her phone and inform her about your whereabouts."
I didn't know when the words escaped my mouth, "Damn, I love you, Joyce!"
Silence gained entrance in our midst, with each girl staring at me with their mouths agape.
"What!? Don’t give me that look girls! Agape love, girls… Wipe your immoral minds clean!"
I had to quickly correct.
"OK... OK... Get to work!"
They dispatched and I whisked straight to Kayode's kitchen.
NADIA: I was confused for over two minutes. Questions welled up within me. How did she get to do this? What do I do?
Immediately, I remembered the things Joyce said to me before the competition:
"If there is trouble, raise your two fingers, and I'll get help."
Quickly, I raised my two fingers. I sincerely hoped that Joyce got my call.
Twenty minutes later, I heard the alarm; an uproar followed. My first thought was, Brenda's kitchen was on fire. God knows I prayed it happened so, but then I heard a knock on my kitchen's door.
"Nadia! Open up!"
It was Jessy; I was so glad.
"What's up?" she asked.
"My melon – it's soiled with kerosene."
Sharon handed over my phone to me; there was a text from Daniel:
"My bumblebee, Wilson escaped. Be careful, and bring the trophy home."
I was supposed to shiver for fear at his text – Wilson had escaped – but I found myself smiling. That bumblebee got me.
"What's Brenda preparing?" I asked.
"American pizza. I think we should return the favor, huh?"
Sharon blended the melon to get its juice. Jessy contacted Joyce and she appeared with another pail of melon.
"Consider this as my apology for betraying you guys..."
Sharon said and took the juice she had prepared to God-knows-where.
Thirty minutes later, the uproar subsided. It was announced that the alarm was false. The competition continued shortly after.
I added drops of water to my grinded melon and molded it into smaller balls, before frying it in red oil. I added my meat stock and gave it time to boil; I turned to my boiled yam.
Time was against me so I quickly placed them into the machine and made sure it was moist, molded and soft.
I washed the bush meat I had till I was sure no burnt taste would surface in my soup. I covered and allowed it to boil while I washed my sliced pumpkin leaves, which I later added.
I rushed back to my pounded yam; I wrapped two in a white nylon and molded one in a clean ceramic plate.
Soon, my soup was bubbling and ready.
The stopwatch clocked zero and my time was up. I quickly placed my food on a tray and came out to serve.
Brenda had already served hers by the time I got there.
We both stood with our heads bowed. My heart was beating so fast; I didn’t fight with it, I allowed it have it's way.
No comments were made. Time was far spent; it was time to design our food.
I made my pounded yam in the shape of meat pie and laid it slightly beside my soup. I placed a large lap of bush meat in between, with a toothpick pegged in it.
I didn't have the chance to see Brenda's design till it was shown on the teleprompter. She sliced her pizza in pencil shape and laid them against each other to form a star. A cup of coffee stood beside it, and a small citrus flower was placed in the middle of it.
It was now time, and the first results blew my heart into pieces.
"In food design, Brenda scored 59; Nadia 57."
The uproar from the crowd was divided at the announcement.
One particular Warri guy in our class screamed on top of his voice;
"Ojoro kill una!!!"
The crowd roared with laughter. I knew I was not supposed to laugh but I could not help but chuckle a bit.
"In theory Brenda 90; Nadia 90."
God, I shut my eyes. I usually have two kinds of mind in such situations; but this time, only one mind spoke out loud:
"You've lost, Nadia!"
I was shaking to my legs; instant urine welled in my kidney. Brenda was already smiling; the crowd grew so quiet, eager to hear the last results.
The head of the judges took the microphone this time around.
"In food preparation...”
He paused for a while. The suspense in the air was killing me.
The crowd went in an uproar; the suspense was equally tearing them apart.
"Brenda's pizza had a little taste of kerosene in it… But it was still delicious. She scored 56. On the other hand, Nadia beautifully wowed us all. She scored 95!"
I fell on my knees with my hands present to cover my mouth. The crowd was so charged that I feared the roof of the hall would fall down.
"Congratulations!!! You have been awarded the best cook in Africa. You have equally won for yourself five million dollars, and a sponsorship to build your own eatery."
I thought Daniel would miss this part, but he didn't, he came out of nowhere. He lifted me up and kissed me the moment he let me down.
You know Nigerians nah... You need to see phones and cameras.
My crew came to join me on stage, taking photos.
Serena was reinstated to her position as principal and awarded for being a great teacher.
How Sharon got that juice into Brenda's pizza still remained a mystery to me.
Oh, and Brenda, she varnished. I didn't set eyes on her after my name was pronounced as winner.
"Go and change your clothes; we are going out to celebrate."
I ran to my room at Daniel's words, only to find Wilson seated there with a gun pointed at me.
Continued on next page...
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