“Why are you crying?” She asked me.
I sniffed, not answering. I turned my face towards the wall, trying to avoid her curious gaze.
She moved closer to me and laid a hand on my left shoulder. She pulled me gently away from the wall and turned me around to face her. I looked at her briefly before letting my gaze fall on my stockinged feet. My tears dropped on my feet like pearly hail, creating a pattern of scattered wet patches on the soft wool covering my feet.
“Emmanuel” She called my name softly, “Tell me what is wrong.” She said.
“I…I…I…” I stammered, sniffing uncontrollably in intervals.
Her right hand reached for my wet chin and raised it up. Then she gazed intently into my eyes. The hand dropped to my left shoulder.
“Now, tell me…what is it?” She asked gently.
“I…I…I don’t want to go to school today!” I blurted out.
She was silent for some seconds before she sighed slightly and spoke.
“Why?” She queried.
“Kelvin and Charles made jest of my name and surname yesterday in the classroom.” I replied, still sniffing. I looked down and started to fiddle with the waistband of my sky-blue khaki school shorts.
“What did they say about your names?” She asked yet again, calmly.
I paused a little before I answered her. I wondered how best to convey, in words, to her, the boys’ hurtful expressions and words concerning my names. Her hand on my shoulder nudged me.
“Kelvin said his grandma calls his elder brother who…who also bears ‘Emmanuel’ too…” I started to reply but my voice faded off involuntarily, unsure of how she would interprete what I was about to tell her.
“Yes?” She prompted me, after waiting for some seconds for me to finish my statement, which I did not.
“He said his grandma calls him ‘Èmónú'” I said, glancing briefly at her face to observe her facial reaction. Her face was bland. I returned my gaze to my feet.
“What of Charles?” She asked calmly, as if she did not hear what I said previously.
“Charles…Charles made fun of my surname and changed it to ‘AdesanWood; Adesan’Gbe’…” I replied but my voice trailed off again as a new wave of tears surged through me. Fresh tears tumbled out of my eyes to retrace the drying paths fore-coursed by their forebears.
“Is that all?”
“Yes!” I answered, nodding vigorously.
“When was I when all that happened?” She queried.
“I don’t know…I couldn’t find you…”
She was mute again for almost thirty seconds before she sighed loudly.
“Don’t mind those bullies”, She started, “They didn’t know what they were saying. It’s because they do not know the meanings of your names, that is why they were acting like that.” She paused.
I nodded once, still looking down.
“Emmanuel”, She continued, “Your name means ‘God is with us’. It means God is with you…with me.”
I raised my head sharply and gazed at her, surprised.
“Oh! You don’t know?” She asked, laughing softly.
I nodded in affirmation.
“Well…that’s what our name means…’God with us’. Mummy told me. She even said that we bear the same name with Jesus Christ.” She said.
I felt heat starting to spread through my cheeks.
“And when I asked Daddy about the meaning of our surname, he told me that it means ‘the Crown has paid for my suffering’…you see…’ADÉSÀNYÀ’. He also said that the Crown is the symbol of a king which means that we’re children of a king.” She continued.
I could feel the traces of a smile following in the wake of the warmth spreading through my face…
To be Continued…