By Akpan-Nya, Alexandra Emem
All of Susan’s righteous indignation had disappeared. She could not even give the female teacher a piece of her mind, like she had planned to. All her anger was buried under embarrassment for directing her annoyance to the wrong person; a man who definitely did not deserve it.
She took a deep breath and turned around slowly with a shamed wince. Over the man’s shoulder, she could see her daughter burying her face in small palms in a dramatic show of embarrassment, one of the quirks she had picked up from TV. I have to stop this girl from watching the Disney Channel, Susan thought wryly.
“As you seem to have figured out, madam, I’m not your daughter’s teacher.” The tall man said. A smile stretched his lips and laugh lines crinkled the side of his eyes. Susan had to remind herself to breathe as his eyes ran over her, his deep voice thrumming in the air between them. “Though I enjoyed our little conversation.”
Susan felt heat rush into her face. She might not be in the dating scene anymore, but she knew when she was being flirted with. What about her was even attractive at the moment? Her plain dark-blue dress or make-up free face? For a moment she wished she had put on the short red dress that morning. But how could she have known she would be running into a tall, dark, handsome stranger?
“I’m so sorry.” She squeaked, the sound of her own voice mortifying her. She cleared her throat and tried again. “I made a huge mistake and I apologize. When I saw you writing on the board, I just assumed…”
“That I was Cherish’s teacher; yes I see how that happened. Still… it’s okay. No harm done.” the man shrugged, smiling. Susan felt a rush of gratitude that he was taking her faux pas so well.
“Actually, madam, I overhead what you were saying.” the woman at the door said. Susan hesitated, before turning to face her. She had entered the classroom ready for war, but now she felt less than inclined to quarrel with Cherish’s teacher. Because the handsome man is watching, abi? See your life. A small voice in her head taunted her.
Susan was surprised when the woman stepped forward, smiling as she offered a small palm for a handshake. The petite woman was conservatively dressed, in flower print skirt and a blue blouse, her hair pulled into a loose bun atop her head, but even the small tribal marks on her cheek didn’t detract from her beauty or the brightness of her smile. Susan found herself smiling back as she accepted the handshake. She could see why children would like the young woman.
“I’m Miss Jennifer Adesina. Please call me Jenny. And I have to apologize for the phone incident madam. I actually had it turned off, but one of the children took it out of my handbag and switched it on. I really apologize for any inconvenience, Mrs…?”
“Miss.” Susan corrected. She saw the teacher’s expression shift subtly, but she was used to it. People were usually surprised to find out she was a single mother. It had become a knee-jerk action to let people know she was no longer a Mrs, but she felt conscious of the handsome man standing behind her. She hoped he wouldn’t read the correction as an attempt to broadcast her singlehood. “I’m Miss Susan Ekerette, Cherish’s mother.”
Miss Adesina smiled at the little girl, where she was sitting. “Yes, Cherish is one of my brightest students. She talks about you a lot.”
“I don’t.” Cherish muttered, folding her arms and sinking lower into her seat, rolling her eyes. The adults laughed and the mood in the room lightened. Susan was glad all the unpleasantness had been glossed over. She was still writhing internally with embarrassment, so she couldn’t wait to leave the classroom with her daughter and forget about the whole incident.
She glanced over at Cherish. “Is she under punishment or something…?” she asked the other woman.
“Oh not at all.” Miss Adesina hurriedly assured Susan. “I had already given up on getting the name of the culprit from her. I have a suspect and I know he will slip up again. The proprietress just happened to be passing by when I brought up the issue of the phone and she took it seriously.” The young woman leaned closer and winked conspiratorially, lowering her voice. “She is very strict.”
“I noticed.” Susan said, shaking her head. “And I have to return to her office. Apparently she has something else to discuss with me.” She turned and almost bumped into the tall man, who had been listening to the conversation avidly. Nervously she apologized and beckoned on to her daughter so they could leave.
She said her goodbyes quickly and left the room, glad to be free from the handsome man’s penetrating gaze. If she hung around him any longer, she would start bumping into things. She realized she did not know his name, but shrugged it off. She half-hoped she would never see him again.
Back in the Proprietress’ office, she got better news. She was delighted to hear that Cherish had been doing so well in her mathematics that the school was considering sending her and two other children for a West African maths competition at Accra, Ghana. She hugged her daughter, proud.
“So, what’s the requirement?” she asked. “Am I to go with her? And when is it?”
The proprietress smiled at her eagerness. “There’s still time, Miss Ekerette. We have three months to prepare. And yes, we would prefer you travelled with her, though if you can’t, you’ll be glad to know all the students selected will be going with a male and two female teachers.”
Susan hugged her daughter again, happy. She was glad her daughter had inherited her love for numbers. “How do we prepare? Am I to practice with her?”
“We couldn’t put you to that much trouble, madam.” The woman assured her. “One of our senior teachers will be giving the selected children special classes. At school and at home, with your permission.”
“Of course.” Susan responded immediately. It would be fun to listen in on lessons about her favourite subject. “When can I meet this teacher?”
“You already have.” A male voice interrupted. Susan turned to see the tall, handsome man from earlier lounging against the office door. His dark eyes twinkled at her. “I guess it’s time we got to know each other better.”
Susan’s breath caught as she read another meaning into his last statement. Why was fate tempting her peace of mind this way?
To Be Continue
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