Alex sat under a big cashew tree. He flipped opened his book leaf by leaf. He would nod after a long scan on each page then he would proceed again. His eye had turned red. Hurting him. The light was bad. He was forced to use the moonlight and soon he would have to sleep.

 

Tomorrow would be the greatest day in his life. He had confidence in himself. Winning the Broma's student competition was the only thing he wanted. He had to make his old man proud. He had to prove to the world that "where you are from can't determine what you can achieve". He had no money to lodge in a guest house. He was a stranger in the city of lagos. Having no friend, no brother, no one at all not even one of his relative had once stepped into lagos. Soon he slept off and his snore scared off crickets and birds. 

He gasped for breath waking into the new light of the day. It was past 9 already. He stared at the wrist watch on his calculator. He jumped off quickly and struggled to put on an undersized pair of old sneakers. One he had borrowed from his friend from the village, then he zoomed off without hessitation. His uniform looked rumpled and dirty. His hair were totally filled with dust. He looked like someone who had just been shovelled out of a pit. 

"Hey, I guess you are not coming in here" The security man said with a scowl as he started at Alex'es uniform. 

"I have a letter sir" Alex slipped out of his breast pocket a neatly folded piece of paper. He handed it over to the security man. 

"hmmm" The man nodded and handed over the letter back to alex and opened the gate. Alex stowed the letter back into his pocket and he walked in.

He almost sank into the ground when he saw the whole compound overcroweded with pupils. He felt not complete. He felt inferior. Groups of students toured around with their teachers and he almost got confused. He had no teacher. 

"Hey" He felt a soft touch and he almost jumped out of the earth. He whirled around his heart in his mouth. 

"how co.m..e" he stammered. Confusion rose in his look. 

"Are you surprised" master zuma began "I have been in lagos since and I have unturned everystone just to see you. I am happy" He pulled confused Alex closer, giving him a warm embrace. Master Zuma was his mathematics teacher. The same teacher who told him about the quiz. The same teacher who bought him a form. He also paid for his transportation. 

"But you said you would be in lagos before me." Alex mumbled his complaint. "why didnt you just allow us to come together" Alex folded his arms against his chest. He looked angry. 

Master zuma pulled him closer. He flashed a beam and he rubbed his rumpled hair "lets see what's going on here so you can get something to eat" He stared at Alex who glared in return 

"have you eaten?" 

Alex was mute. He expected master zuma to know he had been starving. Exactly, it came all the way favoring Alex. The quiz was cancelled and they had to visit the nearest resturant to stock their stomach with cold fufu and melon soup. They ate so much that they could hardly take in a breath without going through series of pain. 

"So where are we sleeping master?" Alex asked his master who was battling with his meat. He revealed his brown set of teeth covered with oil. 

"I have little cash I can secure somewhere". 

"hello" Master Zuma bridged his conversation with Alex to pick up his call. His look changed all of a sudden. 

"Okay" Zuma spoke into the phone. He dragged up mucus which was sluggishly walking it's way out of his nose 

"That's my Dad right?" Alex inquired as Zuma ended the call. 

"Yeah he wanted to say hi. He also told me to tell you he is fine. I was also asked to tell you, Chika your junior brother is now fine. He no longer feels stomach pain"

*****

Master Zuma stood outside with Alex. They watched a big screen with the other hundred of students. The cloud was filled with pressure. Every one took each breath consciously. Alex had told Zuma the questions were harder than he thought. Alex clutched at his masters arm. A tear ran down his cheek with mucus from his nose. he wiped it off quickly. This was his only chance. Maybe his last chance to show himself.

A man in ash suit mounted the stage. He had a red thin tie run into his buttoned up suit. He smiled as he tested the microphone by blowing air into it. 

"ok" His voice echoed "Thank you all for making today a reality for us. We are proud tell you all that no one scored below average." A wide noise broke out amidst the student. They all cheered and clapped. I will like to announce the winners of this competition. The 3rd position goes to..." Alex heart skipped a beat as the man reached that point. "Sam alukosi from flora comprehensive college ibadan". 

A large screen behind the man turned blank then sam alukosi's name popped up. In front of it was a tag 3rd position. 

"The second position goes to brundy kaduk from basic science college zaria" There was another long cheer in the crowd. Objects were thrown up. Officials sent signals quickly to the security team to do their job. 

Alex turned around his face pressed against his master's over starched shirt. He knew he was out already. He had dreamed. Seeing his name on top of the competition. 

"The first position goes to micheal ugbo from Cornerstone comprehensive high school lagos" Tears fell off alex eyes running rapidly down his cheek.  

"and Alex Mazi from St. John College Rivers State. This time around we have four winners..." Alex turned around quickly in disbelief. He flicked sequencialy like he was blind. He jumped at Master Zuma as his name popped up on the screen.

***

"where are going Master?" Alex asked as they passed the route that lead to the garage they ought to take if they were had to reach rivers that night. Alex had just receive a cheque of 2million naira for been the grand winner and a lot of gifts which had been carefully tucked into the trunk behind a cab Master Zuma had hired. 

Master Zuma wiped his face quickly with his palm. He was mute acting as if he was dumb 

"We will go home soon but we have to go to the bank first and cash the money." Master Zuma pointed to his breast pocket. "Alex your brother is now in a more critical condition''. 

''What is wrong" alex asked with an upset look?''

 ''He has appendix he needs an operation...." 

"so you lied" Alex exploded. Distrust was buried in his look "I thought you said he is fine" 

"yes Alex, he is" Master Zuma tried taking off the edge of Alex 

"If I had told you then, you might not be able to win this competition" 

"To hell with you and the competion" Alex lashed out in a vague tone. 

"What is money to my brother's life". 

Now the driver was beginning to peep through his front mirror 

"I wanted the operation to be successful. we needed the money to save his life. Now that you have won we can save his life" Master Zuma held Alexs hand tight. Tears ran down his cheek " U love you more than money Alex. If I had not lied, you would have lost this competition and for sure your brother might die just like that. You know we would never be able to raise enough fund for this" Master Zuma pulled Alex closer to into his arms 

" I am sorry I lied but I had to tell this one to save a life".

AUTHOR: Okhuoya temitope

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