TINY drops of rain make the sounds tim, tim, tim on the alumaco roof of the class as Bella Greene rummages in her bag for her ringing cell phone. This number is strange, she thinks as she cuts the call and scrolls to Tentops campus gossips blog in search of the exam timetable. “It must be here somewhere,” she mutters to herself as she rapidly flips through the screen of her Blackberry Z10. Halfway, she gasps in surprise and stares harder at her phone. Her eyes are glued to the bold sentence on the Tentops secrets blog page showing on her screen:
On Tentops today: Alleb and Atina are the hottest “suupeh” a’ la’ jungle. Guys beware!
“Oh my God,” she screams. As she turns around, she meets the spying eyes of her course mates staring at her. Condescension and amazement line many faces. Suddenly as if on cue, they burst into derisive laughter. She looks back at the offending phone in anger and shame. “How dare they call me a les!” she fumes.
“Tentops is always correct,” smacks Anna, a short, spiteful girl, who has always resented Bella’s intelligence. She studiously backs Bella’s seat as she loudly discusses the juicy blog post with the group. They huddle together in a semi-circle that has Bella on the fringe.
“Serves them right!” throws in Isabel in a loud whisper.
“Stupid lesbian bitches,” adds Esther for good measure.
Bella’s back stiffens as each stroke of the tongue-lash seems to descend on her back with increasing ferocity. She buries her face in her hand in humiliation. She is too ashamed to move.
“Why?” she asks silently. Why me? “Who could have done this?”
Suddenly, a tap on her shoulder and she nearly jumps out of her skin looking up. It is Anita. Her recently supposed partner in the crime of female same sex romance.
“Don’t tell me you are falling for this sh…t,” Anita fumes. The noisy classroom goes all quiet.
There is palpable tension.
“Silly gossip on some stupid blog by a stupid fool, and you are getting yourself all worked up,” she chides dismissively. Bella stares at her with anger and some admiration. There she goes. Treating the whole thing just like a non-issue. Anita always had the capacity to confront things. But this is a bit too much, Bella is thinking and trying to get her mood back and marvelling at her friend’s guts. All the eager ears around them have suddenly dropped down like dogs do when they get a scolding.
“C’mon this just makes us famous. After all it’s our first time on the blog, what else?” she adds with a smirk. “We might as well enjoy it,” she drags Bella up from her chair.
“Where to?” Bella is still trying to find her voice.
“To the library,” Anita states emphatically. “We might as well clinch the time and look for that resource book.” As they walk out she keeps up the tirade. “People could be very, very foolish-o!” As she states this matter of factly, Anita pauses dramatically in mid stride to take a cursory look at the raised faces ogling them. The heads quickly bend down as Anita pins them with her own malevolent glare. Some hide behind their raised books. She looks at Bella meaningfully. “Very, very foolish people, if you know what I mean.” Bella nods and begins to drag her friend away. Anita’s drama knows no bounds. Bella can see Anita is spoiling for a fight. Always defensive, Annie is searching for who to chastise for spoiling her friend’s mood.
“They are not worth it,” Bella admits, trying to drag her out of the class. Reluctantly following, Anita is muttering very loudly: “I mean, how stupid can people be?” she waves in the air.
“Don’t mind the busy-bodies,” Bella adds.
As they casually walk out of the class, Bella gives Anita a quick hug. The two girls support each other with arms thrown carelessly around their waists as they strolled proudly towards the library. Probing stares follow their footsteps. Bella remembers the first time Anita hugged her in theor early days of meeting. It was near the end of the semester, and many students were rounding up for the final assignment and examination.
“Ooooo!” Bella had entered the classroom that sunny afternoon to read but sighting Anita with her head bowed over the table, she walked up to her. “Are you okay?” With a short positive nod, Anita acted dismissively. But Bella touched her neck to gauge her temperature. “Ahhh!” she screamed. “You’re hot, Anita!”
“Just leave me alone, please,” she had replied rather weakly. Bella sat close to her undaunted. “When was the last time you treated for malaria and typhoid?” she queried.
“I can’t remember,” she replied weakly. “I am supposed to buy some drugs but the money I am expecting is really messed up coming,” she added sadly. “Oh, I think I want to throw up.”
“I’d be right back,” Bella said gently as she hurriedly left the class. Few minutes later, Bella was back with prescription tablets and snacks. She asked Anita to take them. “You are to take two pills now, then two at night,” she urged, breathing heavily. “Eat these snacks before you start anyway,” she added, pointing at the wrap of delicious looking meatpie she had bought. Speechless, Anita took the drug and the snacks. After eating to her satisfaction, she complained wearily about the assignment she was to submit the next day. “What’s this big assignment about?” Bella teased inquiringly. Anita feebly pointed at a dozen books scattered on the table and dozed off almost immediately. Bella scanned the table, noting the subject of the assignment and the specifications. She set to work. After an hour, she shook Anita awake and led her back to her room in Garden Lodge. Early the next morning Bella checked on Anita. She wanted to know her registration details so as to affix them on the assignment she had completed for her. Dazed with surprise, Anita took the assignment, scanned it, and gave Bella a bear hug. “Thank you very much, you are one in a million!” She was so happy.
And so did their friendship deepen.
On another occasion Anita had to rescue Bella from sexual assault by her boyfriend, Frank. Although Frank denied it vehemently, but Bella was almost sure the soda he offered her that fateful day was drugged. Just as Anita was almost sure that Frank’s intentions towards his vaunted girlfriend were not gentlemanly. As he was pulling the half conscious Bella to his private lodge that day, he didn’t count on Anita’s brave interference. And after loud threats and shouting, Anita succeeded in rescuing Bella from Frank. That cemented her friendship with Bella and invariably brought more hatred for both of them.
These times, they are finding themselves doing things together, even when it has resulted in their being adjudged lesbians. Nowadays lesbianism is a hot topic on campus. Although many states in America have legalised gay relations to the relief of human rights communities, the campus Scripture Union has championed an African misguided campaign to malign all same sex relationships. Daily, people are being attacked, verbally skinned and brought down with vicious words on the campus gossip blog, Tentops Secrets. The blog which came into existence a couple of years ago as campus information bulletin has now become an instant hit as students run there daily to taste their share of juicy gossips. Their editors’ own queer mindset seems all about discovering dirty secrets about everybody. And usually, when there is nothing to discover, they help their readers make up the news. Once a victim is identified, it becomes everyone’s duty to ensure that a genuine relationship is severely damaged or broken. People are now careful about whom they talk to and whom they walk with. In the fever of the attack, even the Vice Chancellor has not escaped being whispered about in connection with his frequent summons of Students union president, Peter.
Ah Peter! Anita’s boyfriend. Or better, ex. He couldn’t believe it as his name is splashed on Tentops Secrets. It’s just like any other day. Then half way through the boring hot noon heat, the news hit the handsets of the idle students:
On Tentops today, notable Edimalo and Retep are fags a’ la’ Jungle. Ladies beware!
Just like that! Peter, a scraggy nonentity suddenly has become a campus notoriety. In brief, all lectures abruptly ended with news of students’ wild excitements. What with Peter being partnered with the formidable lion of the jungle. This will surely mark the last of Tentops. As we rush to our hostels in great expectations, the lecturers are driving furiously out of campus. What is happening? The VC has had a heart attack, the news is mewing! Now this is bad. No, not just bad. it is too bad. Well, Tentops has had it now. How unfortunate! O di egwu-o!
But hey presto! Next morning, Tentops is still here with another juicy piece. Curiosity is in the air. Sweet relief as Bella sees Anita coming from Peter’s room. Peter has just confided to Anita, who’s now explaining to Bella, that the VC had to rush off the previous day for an urgent meeting with the academic staff union. All the lecturers were summoned for the meeting too. Oh dear! The lion wasn’t even aware of the posts on the blog! Lol! And when he was shown the post, he simply had dismissed it with an impatient wave of the hand. Hmmm!
And still there are these students congratulating themselves that the campus was nearly ablaze yesterday – all to their antics, their genius!