Chapter Thirty-Four

Muslimah VI


“We’ve come to the end of the class for today. Good day.”

The lecture hall erupted into a cacophony of sounds as soon as Prof Jaiye started gathering his books. Papers rustled, seats snapped back into place as students prepared to leave— almost all of them whispering and laughing together. I envied them their freedom because all they had to worry about was attending class and fulfilling every other requirement for passing. I imagined the other final year students like myself had no worries about the course other than studying hard and passing the exam. I, on the other hand, was already engaged in a battle of wits and will in order to ‘survive’ the course. A battle I needed to win. Again.

“Remember your term papers are due in two weeks,” The class quietened somewhat at Prof Jaiye’s words.  “It constitutes 40% of your C.A. Do a good job and you’ll pass, although I know some unserious elements among you will still fail, no matter what they do. Except of course if they fulfill all that is expected of them.” He looked right at me then—cold, brown eyes locking with mine.

My stomach lurched. He’d found me, amidst this multitude of students and at the back of the class, no less. Oh, how I longed to wipe the smirk off his hateful face. That could only happen in my dreams, however, so I did the only thing I was brave enough to do in real life. I held his gaze. Resentment and vengeance clashed with determination and audacity. After mere seconds which felt like an eternity, the spell was broken when he abruptly picked up his bag and left the class.

The racket began in earnest again, this time louder.  I slumped back into my seat, all the fight leaving me. The clash of wills had taken a lot out of me. As the adrenaline wore off, my heart began to thump wildly in my chest. It roared in my ears, drowning out even the noise around me. What am I going to do now? How do I get out this time? I knew I would find no allies among the school authorities. Recently, I’d discovered that the newly elected VC belonged to the same tennis club as Prof Jaiye, as well as the dean of students’ affairs. Everything seemed hopeless suddenly. Was I destined to never graduate? To remain stuck in this endless cycle of injustice and harassment? I was all alone, with no one to ask for help.

That’s not true. Kamaal offered to help.

There was that irritating voice in my head yet again. It was always suggesting the impossible, although this time I was willing to admit that there was some truth to the words.

“Your number, Muslimah.”

My thoughts gradually returned to the present. The class rep stood before me, holding a sheet of paper which he thrust in my face.

“Why do you need my number?” I managed to say.

He rolled his eyes, all the while drumming the desk with his fingers. “For the class telegram group. I mentioned it, literally a few seconds ago.”

Nodding, I took the paper and mechanically scribbled my number.

“Thanks,” He grumbled before moving on to the next student.

I rose to leave, marching up to the double doors behind the class on wooden legs. The cold harmattan breeze hit my face as soon as I stepped out. I turned right, in the direction of the library. If I had no hopes of passing one course at least I could prepare so I could pass another.

“Muslimah Sideeq!”

I turned around and came face-to-face with my nemesis.

I froze. What could he possibly want now?  Students milled about but they paid us no mind. Help me! I wanted to shout, but for the life of me, I couldn’t bring myself to speak or move. I could only watch as he crossed the short distance between us.

“I’ve been waiting for you to come out of the class, to give you a little reminder.” He lowered his voice to a whisper. “Two weeks is what you have. You won the hand last time the cards were dealt.  I shan’t let you win this time because I hold all the aces, so you’d better make a choice fast. Graduation or Ruination. What’s it going to be? Choose wisely, remember, the clock’s ticking.”

With that, he left me standing there, rooted to the spot. I could have passed for a statue if not for the wind rustling my hijab. 

Call and hear him out at least.

That thought came out of nowhere. It thawed my frozen limbs and somehow renewed my energy. If I ever believed I could win this war with Prof Jaiye, his conduct today convinced me otherwise. Truly, I had nothing to lose by listening to what Kamaal had to say, so I pulled out my phone and sent him a text.

Muslimah’s back! Do share your thoughts in the comments, I’d love to read them! Like and share this story too. Thank you for reading

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