Queen. The name that readily comes to mind when people talk about first loves. Queen, the only Queen with no crown. Maybe I’d have been her crown, if destiny had smiled on us, if fate had been consenting. She resumed at my school second term, JSS three, short, chubby and dark complexioned. At only twelve, she was already in full bloom. I remember the very morning the head teacher brought her to our class, a Thursday morning, after class devotion.
‘Good morning sir,’ we rose to salute
‘Good morning to you too… this is your new classmate,’ he announced brusquely and motioned her to introduce herself.
‘I’m McQueen Chiamaka Jones but everyone calls me Queen, she announced in the most refined English we’d ever heard.
‘Welcome, we’re pleased to have you’. The hackneyed chorus.
The only empty seat in class was by me so she became my seatmate.
‘I’m, I’m James,’ I managed wondering to myself exactly when I’d developed a stutter.
‘Hi James,’ she extended a hand, ‘Queen again,’ she smiled and settled into her seat. Queen had transferred from a girls only school to St Micheals, because her parents had newly moved into town, for work.
She made friends easily and enemies alike. Who wouldn’t? She was bold and buoyant, fluent in English, the Queen’s version, smart at Maths and excellent in technical drawing. Over the next few days, boys and girls alike would crowd around her to ask her about her former school and check her out or just ‘gist’ .
She was also highly opinionated, as we were all to discover. For example, she didn’t think we should all be forced to the dining hall at break time to eat.
‘Each person should be able to chose if they want to eat or not, we all have a right to self determination!’ She opined.
‘Why should boys take the cane on their hands and girls on their bums, that’s inequality!’ Queen again.
Soon, she began representing the class in debates and essay writings and became a highly notorious dissenter in the teaching circle. All these increased my love for her. Many a time, I’d go out of my way to dust her seat before she came in the morning, keep seats for her in the dining hall- on days when she felt like eating of course and made sure to defend her to my friends who thought her obstinate. I was ever ready, with an extra pencil, an extra pen, some more water in my waterbottle, even an extra hand, to copy long notes. My friends would laugh and taunt me continually for my perceived spinelessness and inability to communicate my feelings to Queen. In fact one day, one of them actually described me as the cowardly husband who’d paid the bride price only to be presented with his bride’s portrait which he took home and lived with cowardly ever after. That was when I decided to get a hold on myself and tell her exactly how I felt about her.
It was break time that day. My friends and I were just going off to play football after lunch when I spotted her alone, going off to I knew not where. I stealthily backed out of my company, waited for them to disappear behind the class unto the field and made after Queen. I followed her with such surreptitious determination I didn’t realize the overgrown and deserted path led to the female toilet. The old one girls hardly used anymore, since a new one had been erected closer to the classroom blocks. At the door, she suddenly turned round for I-do-not-know-what-reason and saw me.
‘What are you-‘
‘Hi, hi, hi,’ I stuttered uncontrollably, hoping no other girl was around.
‘I didn’t even know you use the toilet?’ I joked, dryly.
‘I know right? the Queen of St Micheals caught using the toilet! Headline’, she rejoined coming back towards me.
I smiled sheepishly racking my brain for an opening line.
‘Actually there’s something I want to tell you,’ I said. ‘In private,’ I added.
‘Why not, let’s head into the ladies.’
‘No please, I-‘
‘Of course not,’ she smiled and turned to the side of the toilet.
‘As anyone ever told you’re such a fine girl?’ I asked. Stupid.
‘Don’t you think I know that already?’ Confidence.
‘Actually, I like that about you, your confidence,’ I capitalised on my mistake. ‘You’re very different from the other girls and I really like you for that.’
‘Everyone likes me a lot, this school is a very cool school,’ she said.
‘Yes, but I like you differently. I mean, I lo-‘
Thwap! Something completed my statement. We both turned around, aghast. The head teacher!
‘Mr Balogun? What are you doing in the ladies?’ Queen demanded. She was right. He had to have emerged therefrom or we’d have seen him from where we were standing beside the wall, in clear view of the only pathway that led to the toilet.
‘You’re still asking question eh? What are you two doing here? That is how you girls predispose yourselves to danger, what are you doing here all alone with a fully grown man?’ He pointed his cane at me.
‘And you, you will explain to the whole school what you were doing with a girl all alone in this bush. Now march down to my office and wait there for me!’ He ordered.
We had not even moved an inch when a voice interrupted us.
‘Ayo, who are you talking to there?’ The V.P academics popped her head out of the toilet door, her lipstick smeard and a an earring, missing.