As the week progresses, I become more and more aware. The world around me becomes more real. And finally Friday comes around, and I know it’s time to actually get to work. I hadn’t really put much thought into the exams at the end of the year. It’s not like they have been shoved down our throats since September. Not at all. I try not to think of anything to far in the future. I know I want out of the Village, that there is a better life in the City, or at least somewhere that isn’t here. But I have no idea how I can get there. Now this is put right in front of me, I know exactly what needs to be done.
The day starts off normally, everything is pretty much the same as every other day. Until we get to lunch. That’s when Tobi walks up to me. I’m just reading my book, or rereading what I missed over the last week. He comes up to me and sits down. At first I don’t react, not knowing what he’s doing. But no one normally talks to me.
“Why do you live here?” He asks.
I hesitate, lower the book, and look at him.
“What do you mean?”
“Your family. You have money. You live here. Why?”
“It’s not up to me.”
“Your a city dweller. Why don’t you live there?”
“I’m not. I was born here.”
“You don’t belong here. My dad told me.”
“What does that mean? I was born here. My dad makes some money, but he spends it all here to help people.”
“Where’s my money? Where’s my help?”
“What’s going on?”
The rest of the playground stops and looks at us. Tobi is raising his voice. My legs start shaking. He’s normally so quiet. What’s going on.
“My Dad he says walking past your shop makes him feel sick. Knowing you have city dwellers in the village. It made him leave. He hates you, he hates us. He left us.”
“I’m sorry. That wasn’t my fault.”
“That’s not what he said. That’s not what Mum says. She says he couldn’t stand living in the next street to someone who deals with the City. You don’t belong here.”
I’m speechless. He sits there for a second longer, and then stands up an walks off. What does that mean? I have nothing to do with anything. I’m just trying to stay focused. I didn’t do anything to Tobi’s Dad. I know he and my Dad have problems, but nothing has ever escalated out of it. It’s just one of those things.
I spend the rest of the day feel very unsure. I don’t know why. It’s not like I did anything, even my Dad didn’t do anything. It’s just something that happens. Families fall apart. He’s angry, wants someone to blame. I think he can understand that I’ve been there too. It’s a horrible place, but he shouldn’t just take it out on me, should he? I’m not going to cause trouble for him, but still. He shouldn’t be causing problems.
Eventually the final lesson ends, and the halls start to empty. I make my way towards Miss Edina’s classroom. She’s waiting for me, reading some students work as I walk in. I feel like I should mention what happened earlier with Tobi, but I decide against it. It isn’t that big of a problem, I should just ignore it. That’s all I can do.
“Nymia, thanks. I didn’t know if you were coming.”
“I wouldn’t miss it, I need to focus.”
“Good that’s the spirit, now. I’ve noticed you’ve fallen behind on some of the basics, like Maths. That’s a good a place as any to start.”
We spend about an hour going over things, things that I should already know. It goes reasonably well. At the end I’m feeling more confident. We agree to meet again next week and I start my walk home. It’s already pitch black when I leave the school, and it’s barely four o’clock. Not even dinner time.
My Dad’s finished work for the day and is cooking when I walk in. The sea of ticking on remains for a second before I head to the kitchen in the back.
“Hey, how did extra class go?”
“It went better than I was expecting. I’m feeling good about it.”
“Good. Good, that’s what I like to hear.”
We stand there in silence for a while.
“Have you heard about Tobi’s family?” I ask.
“His Dad up and left, apparently he blames it on us. Because we don’t belong here.”
My dad stops stirring the pot and looks at me.
“That’s just not true. You shouldn’t believe things like that. Tobi’s just angry, and just too young to understand. Their marriage had loads of problems, has done for years, even before Tobi was born. Some people aren’t meant to be together. It’s not our fault. I’m going to tell you this, but you don’t tell other people. Don’t spread around gossip and rumours when you don’t have too. I know you wouldn’t anyway, I’m just making sure. They had money issues. A lot of them. Tobi’s Dad didn’t like working. He would go home halfway through the day on the farm, and sometimes not even turn up. They lived on half wages for a while, and then eventually the farm got rid of him. His wife worked in the cafe. There’s nothing wrong about that, as such. But then he started resenting everyone else with money, and this shop brings in some money.”
I understand what he’s saying, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I can’t get it out of my head for the rest of the evening. Tobi’s face as he told me. His pain was all over it. I don’t know how to get rid of that image. It’s just there, burned into my mind’s eye.
After dinner I go to my room and sit on my bed, I know I’m not going to sleep easily tonight. I look out the window, at the stars hung so high above us, the distance between us and the stars, while knowing Tobi is one street away, probably crying himself to sleep, maybe in his Mum’s arms. Why did his Dad do that? It’s such a horrible thing. Making Tobi believe there was something he could do to stop it. I don’t want to just sit here, but it’s all I can do really.
I take the pocket watch, and fiddle around with the chain as I look into the sky. I know I shouldn’t, but I really just want to hear her voice, just for a little bit.
Before I know it the world around me changes. The room becomes bare, and becomes oddly unfamiliar and yet the same.
“God, I’ll never get used to that,” Mum says as she walks into the room. “I came in just to hang out some washing, and here you are? Did you know I was going to be here?”
I’m trying to comprehend how my room was originally a room for clothes. Considering there are only a handful of clothes in the whole house. I suppose it was Mum’s job to clean them in the river before it became mine.
“Really? You don’t seem sure.”
“I didn’t know.”
I instantly forget what was worrying me before.
“Well anyway, it’s good to see you again. What brings you here.”
“I just wanted to say hello.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes. Kind of.”
Mum walks over to me and holds me, I feel safer than I’ve ever felt before.
“Come on, sit on the bed, and tell me what’s bothering you. I’m sure it’s not as bad as you’re thinking.”
“It’s just I’ve been blamed for something, I’ve got nothing to do with. I know it’s not my fault. He’s just blaming me because it’s easier for him that way, but I still feel guilty.”
“Sometimes things make us feel like that. It’s not nice, but it’s just the way some things are. Don’t worry about it. I’m sure it will work itself out. People are weird, but as long as you try to be a good person, there isn’t much else you can do.”
“Thank you,” I say as I lean into her already warming hug.