A dark cloud descended as soon as Dr. Ken walked through the door, immediately, some girls dragged their skirts to their knees and adjusted the neckline of their blouse. The guys put their head down a bit; some hid their face under their caps. It was their last lecture for the semester, and they certainly didn’t want to be in his black book.
Aku, the class representative, gently left her seat and started wiping the white board clean. They all expected a lecture or revision, but everyone was surprised when he leafed through some test scripts; he called their names one after the other. Aku couldn’t believe it; the board wiper fell off her grip; she quickly ran to her seat, and dug into her bag for a pen, but there was none. Aku ran out of the classroom, but the minute she stepped out, the door was shut, and she overheard a stern announcement:
”You have three minutes. This forms fifty percent of your assessments.”
By the time Aku got back, she met Dr. Ken on his way out. She ran after him and pleaded:
“Sir, please I left to get a pen!” She spoke, out of breath and full of anxiety. Dr. Ken neither turned to look her way nor said a word; he just walked on as though nobody was around. Aku gave up and walked back to the classroom.
The class was in turmoil: nobody expected a quiz. Most students already saw themselves retaking the same course. Some students suggested they meet the Head of Department, while others called for a protest. Dr. Ken taught Advanced Statistics; he was a member of the university governing body, a clergy, his reputation was quite outstanding, and he held so many titles in the village: he was a powerful man.
Aku sat at the far end of the classroom; she rested her head on the wall, and quietly thought of how to pay another school fees; Aku just buried her parents. She went back and forth from thinking and listening to what her colleagues discussed. Aku knew better than they, and she didn’t want to have anything to do with Doc. A hand tapped her shoulder:
“Class rep, what do we do?”
It was obinna, the one who thought he knew all. She looked out through the window; it was as though his question nearly snuffed life out of her lungs. Her eyes caught images of students who went about their business, lecturers in their cars and peddlers.
“I don’t know. I don’t just….”
Aku answered, still confused and out of breath. His questions weren’t making things any easier. She could not complete her words; she jumped up, nearly frightening Obinna, grabbed her bags, and left.
Statistics department was a stone-throw from the female hostel. Everything that happened earlier in the day disrupted her, and turned her inside-out. It took so much effort to walk from the department to her hostel: she walked pass the private cars, the school shuttles and bikes, without looking. Her mind was deep in her thoughts. Some of her friends called and waved at her, but she didn’t answer. It had been five years of trauma as a student of the university, and then this? She didn’t know how her legs carried her up the flight of steps and placed her in front of her room.
Loud Hip hop music blasted forth through her door: her roommate was back. Aku let herself in; her roommate danced in tight shorts and top. Aku walked straight to her bed and dropped her remains on her bunk. Her roommate turned and met a sad face. Ann stopped everything, and asked:
“Nne, wetin ? You don’t look good.”
Aku tried as much as possible to smile, but it came as tears; she covered her face with her palms and wept bitterly. Ann allowed her be for some seconds, and then placed a hand to her head. She knew what it took Aku to be in final year.
“Tell me, nothing can happen at this moment.” Ann said.
Aku’s eyes were red. She placed one hand to her head, and said:
“I don’t have money to pay another school fees.”
Ann was put aback by her answer. It was difficult to understand her friend, since she was coming out with a first class.
“I don’t actually understand you.”
While she was trying to squeeze the question out of her friend, a knock at the door disrupted their conversation. Ann answered and felt a bit relieved. Nneka, Aku’s closest friend and classmate had come, and Ann didn’t waste much time before she asked Nneka:
“What exactly happened today? She has been this way ever since she got back from lecture.”
The look on Nneka’s face told Ann that she too was not left out.
“Do you remember Dr. Ken? He came to class and gave a three minute quiz, unfortunately, nobody wrote anything, Aku was not in class, and he said it was fifty percent of our continuous assessments.”
Everyone knew Aku’s history with Dr. Ken, since her first year. He had been a torment to her. It was Ann that spoke in a harsh way:
“That man is too brutal. So na Aku’s yash in dey find so like this, eh? Chai!”
Aku didn’t say a word; it was as though she was not in the room.
“She can’t even go close to his office, report nor do anything. This is how so many students are being traumatized in school, because nobody cares. He is unhealthily infatuated with her; one could see the way he looks at her each time he comes to class. It is really disgusting for a man with a wife and kids.”
Ann scuffed at Nneka:
“Oh, you think say n’ only single men wey dey like fuck other girls? N’ married men dey like fuck pass. I suggest make I m no near that devil o.”
“I think it’s best we consult our course adviser, she might be in a better position to help.”
“Girl, this is a university: trust nobody, fear every lecturer because they are all the same. Do you know that the course I failed was taught by a female lecturer? She asked me to pay her money and I refused. I no go carry my money give woman, which kin thing be that?”
Aku spoke for the first time:
“I think I better meet our course adviser.”
She put on her shoes, and left them dazed.
Aku felt bitter and devastated as she knocked on Mrs. Elizabeth’s door. Aku believed that the woman would give her a listening ear. She opened the door, and entered. The woman looked up, smiled, and said:
“Come right in and sit. How are you?”
Aku didn’t say a word, but just sat down.
“How can I help?”
Aku narrated the ordeal of the morning, and when she was done, she didn’t miss the look of disgust on the other woman’s face. Mrs. Elizabeth got up, came over and stood at Aku’s back. She said:
“It is a pity. I must apologise on his behalf. I have always liked you.”
As she gently patted Aku’s shoulder, within a tinkle of an eye, she started massaging her shoulders, and before Aku could talk, Mrs. Elizabeth already had one hand squeezing Aku’s breast. Aku untangled herself from the chair, took one look at Mrs. Elizabeth who smiled; she turned and ran, but she nearly bumped into Dr. Ken who said:
“Aku! Meet me in my office. I want to speak with you.”
Aku didn’t know what to do: either to run or just to follow him.
She took the seat that was offered her in Dr. Ken’s office, and he sat on the other side. He kept on looking at his wristwatch as he talked:
“I am very disappointed that a class rep didn’t write a quiz. What happened?”
“Sir, I ran out to get a pen, but when I got back it was already too late.”
Dr. Ken went through some scripts that were before him, fished out her scripts, handed it over to her, and said:
“Look at this.”
She stretched out her arm, took the script, but their fingers brushed. She bent over the script, and as she looked at them, she didn’t hear him get up from his seat, but she felt his two hands on her shoulders; cold shivers ran down her spine.
He said it like a dying man. Aku swallowed hard spit. He slid his hands into her blouse, and squeezed her breasts. Tears rolled down her eyes.
It was as though she talked to herself. She made to get up, but his grip was tormenting and firm. She gathered all her strength and pushed the chair backward, but he was faster. He caught her by the arm, gave her two hot slaps; she flew to the floor; her gown ripped open. She tried to get up; he pinned her to the floor, drew her pant away. He unfastened his belt and unzipped his fly, his erect penis pointed aggressively to her face. As he spread her legs the more, she pleaded:
“Sir! Don’t do this!”
The door flew open; a voice shouted:
The chief security and his men gave him a menacing look. They were accompanied by Nneka and Aku’s roommate. Dr. Ken jumped off her, and as he tried to tuck his erect pennies back to his trousers, Aku crawled to one side of the room, drew her legs to her chest, bent over, and wept.