On a gusty September morning, many moons ago, myself and a bunch of snot-nosed nine-year-olds shuffled into Class 4.

Everyone wanted to sit with their friends. I looked with dismay at the dirty urchins around me. I was looking to sit next to someone cool, someone I could exchange story books with and discuss movies when the class got boring. And it had to be a girl too.

I had discovered that the fairer sex offered more loyalty and intrigue than boys. I was done with them! I had sat next to Hannah the year before, but the breakup was terrible…she took my Marshall Math set home and in return I got a tired crayon set. Hannah spotted me and waved at me, I looked right through her. She was so last term. I was moving up the ladder in Class 4

I glanced at the lineup. Sheila…way too short (I was probably the shortest guy in the class) oh and a cry baby to boot…Nope. Next!.

Vanessa…Ugh, I hated her colored ribbons. She hadn’t progressed further than “Through The Garden Gate” the first book in Class 3…I couldn’t with illiterates!

My eyes fell on Minerva Sam, a girl I had a crush on…. year 4 was ours!

There was a simple formula I had discovered from class 2 when it came to choosing your sitting place. 

Rule 1. Teachers have sussed out which kids are friends with who, from the previous teachers – never sit next to your actual friend at first. 

Rule 1 didn’t apply to me. I had no friends. They were only a means to survive these fiendish hellholes.

Rule 2. If you are short or troublesome, avoid the back. Both of which , unfortunately applied to me. I will move from the middle seats to the front.

Rule 3. Sit next to the opposite sex. Many kids at that age wanted to only associate with the same sex. Amateurs!

With my understanding of cracking the system, my eyes followed Minerva like a hawk. 

Her best friend was Ama Akrofi and they were as thick as thieves, however they didn’t sit next to each other. Ama Akrofi went straight to row A and Minerva to Row B, separated only by an empty chair and the aisle. I sat in the empty chair before Mark could waddle his dumb ass over. The impudence! He could barely spell his own name and he thought he could sit next to her?. He glared at me and sheepishly moved on. Did he already forget I was the musical chairs king at his lame birthday party?

Minerva had her head buried in a Nancy Drew novel, totally ignoring me. I took out my Hardy Boys storybook and stared intently at the pages, pretending to read, all the while furtively looking at her. She was an angel from heaven. No blemish or flaws. Unlike Hannah who had this gnarled toe, I had noticed much to my disgust towards the end of our ‘relationship’

Miss Yeboah, the class teacher, waltzed in a few minutes later and promptly started ejecting people from their seats. Many friends had sat next to each hoping she wouldn’t notice. She did. I saw her glance briefly at Minerva who had her head buried in her book. After 10 minutes of shuffling people around, Minerva and I were still next to each other… a match made in heaven.

The first class was some calculus, the next English and by breaktime Minerva and I were chatting away like old friends. We had even agreed to swap novels by next week. I congratulated myself for a beautiful execution.

By week two, it had become obvious that Minerva and her friend Ama Akrofi had played me. Minerva will beg me to swap places with her for a minute so only the aisle separated her from Ama Akrofi. She did give me the Nancy Drew book, “The Secret At Shadow Ranch” and spent half the time chatting with Ama Akrofi. By week three she stopped asking to swap places.I’d get to school and Minerva would be in my seat.

Even Miss Yeboah did not notice that Minerva never ever sat on her chair and that she had done a hostile takeover of my seat.

There was a rule four I had not figured out till then: 

Get an easily manipulated dummy to break the direct link to your best friend. 

Minerva and Ama Akrofi knew that rule.

I missed Hannah, we used to talk about so many things. I looked around the class one day wondering who she was sitting next to. I saw her in the middle of the class sketching away on her drawing pad as she usually did. I made my way to an empty chair next to her and tried to win her over with lame jokes. She gave me the cold shoulder and several come back lines that drew laughter from neighbouring students. I deserved that. 

“Hey, get up from my chair,” someone bellowed.

I looked up. It was Mark.