Best Dressed Student went to her this week… again. Argh! That was her seventh time in this school term alone for Pete’s sake. Was I to think it was futile to expect that my many efforts could win me the prestigious title just once since we entered SS 1? I thought at least that the teachers responsible for awarding the neatest and best dressed students would notice my very visible milestone in “showing maturity.” (That was my principal’s lingo for us students not having the knots of our neck ties anywhere but at our necks.)

“I’m always telling you all to be at your best,” Mr Reuben, our principal began. “Some of you think I’m joking when I say cleanliness is next to godliness. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it pays to be well dressed.” This actually made the students chuckle, nursery-rhyme-ish as he had made these lines sound.

He actually wasn’t listening to himself (kind of like that saying about broken records), because his words were even more cliché than routine. And though he wasn’t particularly lying to the students, the words he uttered weren’t really coming from a place of earnestness.

Ay emerged from her place in the height-coordinated row of first-year seniors to stand precociously beside our principal. She didn’t mind being sized up by her schoolmates; she had long gotten used to it all. In fact, it was so standard, to expect her name called for the title, that show of envy toward her was deemed prehistoric. I’m telling you, that was the exact adjective one second-year senior used as we worked on the weekly press club news. But me? What did I care? I’d only joined the school the year before, and decided to busy myself with making a mission of dethroning Ay. So I got to work.

On that seventh week of Ay’s first term domination, I came up with my two-fold agenda that would help me win best dressed. The first phase would be to give her an exclusive interview for the press club newsletter. But this would be no ordinary interview. I thought I’d put my premature knowledge of reverse psychology to the test. So I designed the interview to focus on the worst dressed moments of her childhood that her family archives offered, as well as her little knowledge of her culture and native attires, among other gimmicks.

As I walked into the library that following Thursday, as scheduled, she innocently copying one of her notes, I had all of my sights set on executing this plan. So bent on the execution was I that it didn’t occur to me that no single one of my plans ever worked out the way I planned. I sat down and smiled before she nodded her innocent, unbeknown, approving nod.

I clicked the big red button on the borrowed walkman.

“Hello Ay,” I heard the insincerity in my own high-pitched cheeriness.

“Hi Brian,” she smiled shyly.

“Thanks for making out time to be interviewed by Everest High Today.”

“It’s my pleasure, and it feels really good to be here with you today, Brian.”

“Great. So let me ask you, how does it feel to be given your fifth consecutive and 22nd overall best dressed title?”

“Well, um, it’s pretty nice. I try to do my best to maintain Everest’s high standards of cleanliness and godliness. But I won’t lie, my father doesn’t tolerate any rubbish. He checks my uniforms before my mum washes them. Any unnecessary stains and I’m in trouble. Last term, he bought five good uniforms and 10 pairs of socks. He doesn’t need to tell me before I know I must maintain them to SS 3.”

Wow, is this babe a godsend or what? She’s giving me plenty and I haven’t even gotten to the crazy part! Boy, it really must be Christmas! Haha. I was already patting myself on the back.

After asking her a couple more basic questions, and she of course giving me beautiful sound bites to work with, I felt we’d set the pace for a well-timed change of gears. So I made some notes in my jotter, while mentally considering which one to go with first. Okay, should I go with “Is it true that your grandpa is close friends with the proprietress?” or “There’s that rumour of you in Biology class with the red stain on your sock, what’s that about?” Oh, that’s kinda risqué. Maybe I should go with “I heard your mum came to school once in JS 2 asking where your younger sister’s –”

“…ve you, Brian.”

I was pretty sure it was one of those cases of your mind moving so fast that, when something suddenly stops it, you find yourself for a split-second right at the intersection were space and time meet and form a continuum. But then, I heard it again and then my heart started to race for unknown reasons.

“I said I love you.”

I was speechless.

Worry lines started to show on her forehead, her smile was fading faster now than when they first began to, soon after the first, bewildering declaration of love. But I just sat there in shock, frozen as the grandfather’s clock in hell. And then, quickly — more like ashamedly — she got up and ran out of the library.

When I could muster courage enough to move my neck, I noticed the book she’d been covering with her hands the whole time. The one I’d thought she was copying notes in. Doodles. She had drawn doodles of me and her. So many, tiny, little doodles.

What the hell just happened? Argh, Brian, you are such an idiot! I groaned at myself, still seated in the deserted library, face clasped in my hands.

* * *

It’s been 9 years, 3 months and 16 days since.

But Ay is as beautiful and impeccably styled as ever. She is now a fully-blossomed goddess. Her makeup, hair and wardrobe are a spectacle. Standing merely a few metres away from Ay, who’s seated with two other ladies, Brian can tell he is about to reunite with the love of his life. He is here, beside me, at the bar of this tasteful mainland lounge.

I smile admirably, his just-concluded memoir wonderfully punctuated with passion and a deep sense of longing. He has obviously grown so much more mature in the last decade.

But not fast enough.

You see, I am Ay’s fiancé.

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By Tobi Aworinde

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