Q's disappearance didn't mean much at first. I thought she was playing a rude prank on me and I was going to let her stew. I didn't have her time anyway, exams were approaching and even though I didn't care that much for my books, I had to show some sign of seriousness.
By the third day of her disappearance, I started getting worried. How is it that I hadn't run into Q. at the tap or in class or even at the dining hall for that matter in the past 3 days? Was she ill and at the clinic on admission? I checked and the nurse hadn't seen her all term. By that weekend, there was a red alert all over school. Q was missing!
I found myself being called to the staff room every few hours. It was dawning on me ever so slowly that I was being held responsible for Q's disappearance. Some prefects were assigned to me and I was to lead them to all our hide -outs searching for her.
Somehow, they were sure she was still within the premises at least most of the time. The teachers kept hearing reports of how they saw her at the borehole at the staff quarters or at the tuckshop gate late one night. There were all sorts of reports but no proof.
"Enkay, you are hiding Q. somewhere, you better produce her or risk being suspended!"
That was our form teacher. She was frustrated and frankly so was I!
That night during night prep, I poured my frustrations into my little diary. I accused Q. of being selfish and mean for playing such a prank and leaving me to stew in her mess. I told her I regretted having her as a friend if friendship with her meant the kind of suffering I'd had to go through for the past few days. I said I didn't understand her and her weird ways at all and that if she ever got back, I'd give her a piece of my mind.
That pretty much sums up what I wrote in that book. I'd really had it up to here and my small 10 year old mind just couldn't take any more.
The next day, we were walking back to class from the old home economics lab (The same one we went to steal water from earlier) and we had to pass by our uncompleted dining hall building. The thing had been abandoned to rot and you usually won't find students in it. Suddenly a class mate screamed "Q!". We all turned to see what the noise was all about. The girl was pointing frantically at a broken window "I just saw Q. in there!". We all stared at her blankly as the window she was pointing at obviously had no Q. in it. She insisted and started walking towards the building. the window in question happened to belong to one of the 12 toilets that lined that side of the building. Since the window was quite high, one of us dragged towards it a broken chair so she could at least get a peek.
She jumped down after a few minutes shaking her head "all I could see were cobwebs broken toilets and dry shit"
I left them there and walked towards the entrance of the building. The rest didn't know it but Q. and I hung out at that uncompleted building sometimes. There were rooms in there I was sure no other person even knew existed. Suddenly, I knew where to look. Sure enough, there she was huddled in a corner of the room. There was dried up feaces everywhere (evidence that some others knew the place better than I'd thought). She just sat there and stared at me with a look that dared me to judge her. Her hair was brown and obviously hadn't been combed in all the 2 weeks she'd been missing. Her uniform was dirty. Really dirty. It was obvious she hadn't had a bath the whole time. Did she sleep out there those two weeks? All by herself and in the cold?
Something about the way she sat there staring at me defiantly made me realize this was no prank. This was more serious than I'd thought.
"Leave the entrance all of you! Clear the way!"
It was our house mistress. I turned to look at her and that's when I realized that the rest of the class had gathered at the door way. I hadn't heard them approach. I did as I was told and stepped aside. I don't know what words were spoken but in a few minutes, Q. was being led to the staff quarters. She was to stay with one of the female teachers.
I was asked to get her clean clothes and fresh underwear. I went to her locker but couldn't seem to find any. They'd probably been thrown out by some overzealous senior. Instead, I got out my own uniforms for her and a set of my newest underwear.
By the time I went back the next day, I could see that the teacher had done quite a good job. Q's hair had been nicely trimmed, even though the unhealthy colour was still there. She looked clean and my uniform though a bit large on her somehow sat right. She wouldn't look at me though. I wondered why. I just sat there in awkward silence. I had so many questions to ask but she returned barlely one day ago and it didn't seem fair to bombard her like that.
She was at the teacher's place for another 2 weeks. Her parents had been notified and they were asked to come get her in person at the close of the term. Stories traveling through the grapevine had it that Q. said she was frustrated and wanted to kill herself. What?! What did a 10year old know about frustration and suicide for goodness' sake?!
Even when she returned to the hostel, Q. still wasn't speaking to me. She avoided me like the plague and treated me like a stranger. What have I done now?
We wrote the exams and got ready to go home. Two nights before we left, Q. walked up to me...
"Thank you very much Enkay. I heard what you wrote about me in your little black book. I thought we were friends. Now I know better."
She just turned and walked away. I was shocked to say the least!
First of all, who told Q. about the stuff I wrote? Secondly, is this how I get paid for the stress she put me through?
The next day when I asked her, she had no explanation but to say "It was B that told me what you wrote!"
She and B had become fast friends in those last few days. I should have known.
I wanted to apologise but Q. didn't give me half a chance.
Her mom came to pick her at the close of the term.
I don't know what the principal told her but Q. never returned to our school the next term. She'd been transferred to another school closer to her hometown.
I never got the chance to say my own side of the story. I never got to apologise. I'd lost Q. forever and with her, a great friendship.
Nearly 20 years later, I run into Q. again. I wish I had something really pleasant to say about that re-union (If you'd call it that). We met again on FB.
"Hi! is this the same Q. that went to XXX school? Do you remember me, Enkay?"
"Yes it me. Nice to see you again. Keep in touch"
And that was it. Nothing more.
From her frofile I could see she'd grown into a pretty, self-assured young woman currently doing post graduate studies somewhere in the UK. I was glad for her. That stint with Enkay many years ago probably forever wiped off her memory.
Still, I'm glad we were ever friends at all. That our paths crossed. For even up till now, I am yet to meet anyone like my dear, dear Q!