Irunya’s memory never fails him whenever he contemplates the day he first met Rege. He was in class four and rumours had it that there were new admissions in school. The bullies were very much elated. They viewed new admissions as a new supply of pleasantries during break time. Their eyes gleamed with pleasure whenever the subject of new comers was brought up. It was during Miss Waihenya’s class that the newcomers were introduced to the class. Irunya liked Miss Waihenya. Her skin was dotted with black spots. On any other person they would not have been noticeable. However, on the five footed, light skinned Miss Waihenya, one could not miss them. Other women would probably recoil at the thought of black dots all over their face but not Miss Waihenya. She walked with her head held up high. This air of confidence left quite an impression on all who crossed her path. Among those who were quite impressed was Irunya. Nonetheless, Irunya liked her more because she taught literature. It was the only subject that allowed his mind to roam beyond the four walls of the classroom. Nothing excited Irunya more than creating characters every time they were required to write compositions. Furthermore, Miss Waihenya had a way of bringing fictional characters to life. Besides she was kind. She treated the students equally irrespective of their backgrounds. No student got special favours because they were children of the local Chief. Yes, Irunya liked her very much. It only seemed fit that she would introduce the newcomers, add colour to an otherwise dull ceremony.
‘Class. As you are aware we have some newcomers joining us today. I would like to introduce them. I hope you make them feel welcome’ said Miss Waihenya bringing the class to a pin-drop silence.
The students sat up straight in the chairs. The bullies were almost standing. They surveyed the newcomers as a Cheetah surveys a herd of Impalas; sizing them up, wondering who would make for easy picking. Irunya felt sorry for the newcomers but he was also excited at the thought of making new friends.
There were four newcomers in all; three boys and one girl. One boy towered over the others. He was restless. He fidgeted with his scrawny schoolbag. His sweater sat awry on his shoulders. His eyes shimmered with wonder as he passed them over the heads of the seated students He had a smile stuck on his face that remained unfazed even at the jeering look of the bullies seated at the back of the class. Irunya could not help wonder at this new boy. It wasn’t natural for newcomers to appear bright on their first day. In fact, if he was on the verge of shedding a bucket full of tears, Irunya would have been at ease. This was natural. However, this new boy beamed that everything and nothing. When Miss Waihenya asked the newcomers to state their names, he almost burst with joy. He should be trembling at the thought of speaking in a room with forty strangers, so thought Irunya. Irunya was intrigued by the new boy. It seemed there was something peculiar about him and Irunya had the peculiar feeling they would become very good friends. It was now his turn to introduce himself. While the other newcomers were shy and withdrawn, the new boy was loud and extroverted.
‘The name is Irege but my friends just call me Rege. It sounds easy to the ear’, said the new boy.
‘Well, Rege, we are not animals, are we now? I am sure you have two names. Out with the first.’ retorted Miss Waihenya while blessing the boy with the most genteel of smiles.
‘Why Madam, I believe it is James. I have not used it in the longest time that I thought I had forgotten it completely.’ the new boy rejoined with a slight bow of the head and that infectious smile still stuck on his face.
The class could not help bursting out with laughter. He was a charmer alright. Such fine English he spoke for a boy in class four. And with that single rejoinder he became the darling of the class including the gracious Miss Waihenya. As she showed the newcomers to their seats, all eyes were fixed on Rege. James Rege. He walked with an aura of confidence never before exhibited in the class nor the school at large. The girls giggled in a most silly manner. The boys beheld him with wide eyes. They worshipped him. Miss Waihenya allowed the performance to continue for a while before bringing the class to attention.
‘Right, let us now turn to Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s Weep Not Child’
Irunya fondled the novel while still eying Rege who now sat a few desks to his left front. Irunya could not help smiling. He foresaw interesting times ahead with Rege around. And indeed he was right.