Read the first and second parts of the Pristine series here and here

“Dara, that your friend is like
the finest guy in camp, in my opinion,”
Kenny said in bed one afternoon after a
long, tiring lecture in the camp auditorium.
Surprised, Dara asked, turning on
her own bunk to face her, “David? Really?”

“Yes! And he likes you.”

“Of course. How else would we have
been friends?”

“I mean really like you.” Kenny emphasized in a way Dara thought
unnecessary. “I see the way he looks at you. He spends as much time as he can
with you, and has been bribing Taiwo and I by saving all three of us seats all
week since lectures began. He clearly adores you.”

Dara rolled her eyes. “He’s just a
nice guy. We talk a lot and that’s it. Don’t go reading meanings into nothing.”

“We’ll see about that,” she
snorted derisively, then gushed dreamily, “There’s just something about really
tall guys that aren’t skinny or fat, just well built like that. Most especially
when they wear glasses. Gives them this intelligent, sexy look.”

Taiwo, who had been quiet the
whole time—she was indeed brooding most of the time—dropped the magazine she
had been flipping through. Using her toes, she poked the back of Kenny’s
mattress suspended over hers and asked suspiciously, “You find Malik

Kenny bent to peep at her,
puzzled. “What? Malik? Of course
she replied, seeming a bit disgusted. Then she added with a chuckle, “He’s
not even that tall.”

When Kenny left for the bathroom
some minutes later, Taiwo told Dara with a nervous smile, “I know my sister
wouldn’t hurt me, but sometimes I feel like she gets with my boyfriend a little
too well.”

“Kenny gets along with everyone
Dara reminded her.
“Yeah. What do I have to worry
anyway? No guy would have me and want her instead.”
It struck Dara then, just how very
insecure Taiwo was. She was actually the smaller-bodied and lighter-skinned
twin, hence she might have seemed prettier, but many people found Kenny’s
friendlier nature more appealing and that apparently got to her. Dara didn’t
feel sorry for her, although she imagined it must be difficult for twins to
constantly be compared to each other. And in Kenny’s defense, she told Taiwo,
pretending to not notice the glare that followed, “Some guys aren’t just about
looks, you know?”

She fell into a brief nap that
afternoon, wondering what anyone would say about her too. Dwelling on how
people say her or if they liked her wasn’t really in her character, she simply
lived, vanity-free. And it had been working for her so far. Parade that evening
was a shocker to her, however, when the platoon voted and the commandant
approved…of Dara representing them in the Miss NYSC pageant.

“What?!” she had exclaimed,
horrified at the first person that suggested it before they voted. 

“I’m not
even so tall. And I don’t know how to model or catwalk. Let’s not even make a
fool of ourselves,”
she had argued with them all, shaking her head while they
The platoon commandant tapped her
soldier and told her, “My friend. You suppose dey happy o, say everybody wey
dey dis platoon wan make you stand for them in this whole camp. Na becos dem
feel say you fit o. Ahahn, you no dey look mirror? See as you yellow, wey you
slim, wey you fine o! Na you go do am walahi. Make you go prepare your mind.”

Dara sighed. “What about costumes?
I didn’t bring any fancy clothes to camp now.”

“All of us na team, we go find
everything wey yo go use. No worry,”
the soldier assured her.
She wasn’t assured, though. She
went ballistic as David walked her to the hostel that night. “Can you imagine
she fumed. “Many girls in the platoon and they chose me! I didn’t even
sign up for this, I’ve never thought of myself as a beauty queen for a second
in my life! We will lose the pageant and I’m not even going to be sorry!”

He only smiled quietly. When she
had let off enough steam, he told her, “Dara, you don’t even know how
incredible you are. And that’s what makes you even more beautiful.”

She was going to roll her eyes at
him, but when she looked up, he was staring at her in a strange way…like he had
meant what he said. At that instant, Dara wondered if what Kenny had said was
true. And after saying goodnight, she still felt his eyes on her all the way
till she got into the room, suddenly feeling self-conscious and weird at the
same time.
She had to learn to be vain, and
Taiwo was a pro at that. Every night after dinner, they went into one of the
empty hostel rooms and had brief grooming sessions before it was lights out.

“You have to be more confident
with that walk,”
Taiwo would say, demonstrating to correct Dara’s tense version
of a catwalk. “Feel sexy, be sexy.”

“But I don’t feel sexy, I feel like an idiot!” Dara would reply helplessly.
Kenny was always there too for
some moral support. She’s laugh at her and say, “Dara, how could you not feel
sexy, looking like you do? You have the body and you’re smart too. What more
could you possibly need?” Then she’d say wistfully, watching them practice,
“You even look more like Taiwo’s twin than I do.”
It had never occurred to Dara
that Kenny might just be envious of Taiwo’s looks too.
On the third day of practice, when
Dara finally decided to put her mind to it and actually made an impressive imitation
of Taiwo’s catwalk, Taiwo shocked her by firmly cupping her breasts and asking,
“Do you know what these are for?”

Puzzled, Dara shook her head while
Kenny giggled, watching her expression.
“So I figured. You don’t wear


“Bras. Push-up bras,” Taiwo
explained, srill holding on to them.
Dara shook her head again, shocked
and wondering what her boobs had to do with anything.

“They give you shape. They make
clothes hang beautifully on your body. When you walk, stop acting like you’re
ashamed of these God-given gifts. They’re yours to be proud of.”
She finally
let go. 
“You don’t have to walk exactly the way I do. I have wider hips, you
more of boobs, so just enjoy being in your own body…feel yourself.”

“Okay,” Dara replied, pushing back
her shoulders and standing straighter.

“I bet your boyfriend enjoys
Taiwo teased with a wink.
“I had a guy once. All it took to
get anything from him was just to let him have a feel. Guys can be crazy like
Kenny shared, shaking her head and laughing.
Dara smiled. “I’ve never had a
boyfriend. I didn’t want any distraction in school, now I’m looking forward to
it though.”

“Never? As in never? Where have you been? You don’t even want to know how many
guys I’ve been with.”

After some more practice, Dara
asked Taiwo, “You know a lot about modeling, how come you aren’t even
representing your platoon?”

She shrugged dismissively. She had
wanted to, and was actually one of the three girls nominated in her platoon for
the pageant but had had the least number of votes. Sometimes popularity
mattered more than skill.
Kenny, knowing what had happened,
gave her sister a sympathetic smile right before checking the time and telling
them, “It’s almost nine. They’ll cone send us to bed in about three minutes.
Let’s continue tomorrow.”
Camp had gotten really busy,
series of activities were going on. Inter-platoon cooking, drama and dance
competitions gave almost everyone something to be involved in. Two of Dara’s
platoon members, both namesakes, dedicated their time to preparing her for the
pageant, however. Tolu boy was a professional stylist with a UK degree while Tolu
girl was a make-up artist. They pieced Dara’s outfits together and got her
likely test questions. They believed in her so much she became excited about it
Even Gideon and Dan cheered her on
from home when she told them over the phone, although they found the idea
totally unlike her and therefore unbelievable at first. Their parents supported
too, after she lied that she had applied for relocation.
The excitement flew out the window
a day to the pageant when she went to mammy market to get her hair and nails
done. There was another customer in the salon who wouldn’t stop telling
everyone that cared to listen how prepared she was to clinch the Miss NYSC
title. She had everything planned, had brought all her outfits and accessories
from home, and had enough experience from other beauty contests she had engaged
in before. She had come to camp solely for this, and was absolutely positive
she’d win. She smiled a lot, batting her eyelashes and calling everyone
‘darling’, like a true diva.
The girl left when Dara’s hair was
halfway done, and terrified, Dara told Tolu, “I can’t do this. I obviously
don’t stand a chance.”

He gave her shoulder a gentle
squeeze. “Queens need brains too, not just looks. Yes, you do stand many chances.
Trust me.”

“Okay,” Dara sighed.
To be continued….
Morountodun is a writer and a microbiology ‎ graduate of University of Ilorin.
Twitter: @Morountosweet

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