It started when she claimed me as her Dear from among the entire first year class. I was excited. Her reputation preceded her. I knew who she was because all the lower formers had been talking about Sister Avery. She was tall, standing at 6’2” a head and half taller than most of her classmates, and weighed in at about 250 lbs when most of her classmates were a 110-160 lbs. To say Sister Avery was fat was to tell a half truth. Her weight and height evened out enough that she was still shapely and curvy in all the places I wished I was.
Sister Avery was in her 7th year, about to sit for her A-Levels. She was reading BioChem and planned to go to Medical School to be a pediatrician. Today as she spoke to me all I could think of was how her gargantuan figure would look next to infants and toddlers.
“H3r, you dis small girl I hear you are pitsir pitsir.” She wagged a finger in my direction, albeit playfully.
“Oh Sister Avery, where did you hear that I was prissy?” I asked in my usual coy tone that had most of the seniors falling for me.
The competition was stiff with everyone waiting for the verdicts to come in. Who would have who for a Dear (Sweetheart) and which senior girl would collect the most amount of sweethearts from the incoming class of newbies.
“So! Will you be my Dear or what?” Sister Avery said as she handed me a present nicely wrapped in shiny, crinkly paper.
Just wait till I showed this one to the girls in my dorm. I had amassed quite the stash of gifts even though Homo’s Night was still a week away and the first years had only been on campus for three weeks.
“Oh Sister Avery,” I smiled shyly. “This is beautiful, but you know you don’t have to give me a gift before asking. Of course I will be your Dear.”
“You don’t want to open it first?” She smiled knowingly.
“I want to savor it later, after Prep.”
“Well ok then. Come and give me a peck.”
I rose steadily from my seat and joined her on the bed. I leaned in closer and gave her a quick kiss on her right cheek. This was getting risky. How many of these pecks was I allowed to give out before I brewed jealously? Did they count for a sin?
“Now go before you are late for Prep and the prefect punishes you. Being my Dear comes with privileges but you must not abuse them.” She winked at me.
I walked out of her cubicle knowing the path had been carved out for me and I would need to fulfill its requirements. My excitement had dulled by the time I arrived at my dorm room. The realization that I had accepted another proposal gave me pause. So far I’d been asked by four Upper 7 and two Lower 6 seniors and I’d said yes to four. Two of whom were prefects and thus had been hard to say no to. One, whom I adored the ground she walked on and would have flung myself at her knees even if she hadn’t asked me. The two rejections had been easy. They were best friends with the two prefects who asked. And they respected each other too much to share a Dear. Plus the prefects asked first. Plus, I thought wistfully, being Dears with prefects came with privileges. This last one though, Sister Avery, she was the boss of everyone even though she was not a prefect. She commanded so much respect and a good measure of fear in the hearts of the some of the lower forms. How could anyone say no?I wondered how many Dears she had already. Probably a couple in each class year.
So four Dears. And we still had a week left of proposals season. This meant there could be more coming my way, and from the rumour mill, I knew there’d be, at the very least, one more. I had a fairly good idea who she was. Sister Neida. Could I handle five? As a student reading BioChem and Physics, my workload was already more than I could handle. Having Dears required commitment to building the relationships. Key of these commitments was letter-writing. Some Dears only communicated by letters which were usually written during Prep time and delivered at differing times during the day, usually by students of the lower forms. Writing letters to five Dears would take up an hour of my four-hour study time. This was not a very efficient use of my study time. I shrugged as I walked into Adom House.
“Ei! Gy3ma enya sweetheart kor so aka ho 3?” Wynie screeched as I stepped into the dorm doorway.
I smiled broadly as I nodded yes to her question. She jumped down off her top bunk and walked towards me. She quickly snatched the present from my hands before I could protest.
“Let’s see what you got this time.” She unwrapped it hurriedly, handing me the pretty crinkly wrapper.
“Eish! As for this one, I beg.” She gave me a devious look. I think I know who this is from. You don’t have to tell me.” She grinned widely and searched my face. I turned away.
The whole orchestration was played with utmost secrecy. Once you’d been asked, and you acquiesced, you were not supposed to reveal who you had accepted until Homo’s Night when we had a formal exchange of gifts. Of course people did not always play fair.
“Do you want to see your present? Or are you too busy hiding your facial expression from me?”
I whipped around quickly and snatched it from her. I walked to my bunk and hopped onto my bed. She hopped up beside me.
I turned the book over and gasped as I saw the shiny and embossed front cover of the latest book in the Cutler series by V.C. Andrews: Darkest Hour.