Monday, August 18, 2008

Novella: Choices (Chapter 2)

“What would you do if a guy or girl who has hurt you before wants to come back into your life”, Chuba asked, looking at his Sunday school students’ faces.
“I’ll forgive him but I’ll not give away my heart a second time” a girl at the back row said.
“I won’t even allow her say a word; it’s simply unacceptable” said a boy sitting directly in front of Chuba.
“Any other opinions?” he asked. No one responded. “Thank you Ifeoma and Chuks for your sincere comments. However, if we truly want to be like Christ, we need to incline ourselves towards Ifeoma’s position. You forgive the fellow but guard your heart carefully, so you don’t get hurt unnecessarily again.”
“How’s that possible. You shouldn’t talk to the person anymore?” A student whose name Chuba could not place asked.
“No! You should in fact talk to the person but make sure it remains on safe basis; platonic, not emotional basis.”
“How could you possibly achieve that with someone you were that close to before?” the same student asked.
“It’s not so easy; to be sincere but it can be worked out. You talk with the person in public places. You avoid talking about personal issues and you make your conversations as brief and straight-to-the-point as possible. And when you don’t need to see the guy or the girl, stay away from him or her.”
“That’ll be hard!” a JS3 girl said.
“You’re right, Favour.” As Kristos High School’s Chapel prefect and a well-respected student, Chuba had many students come to him for advice and Favour was one of those. He knew her story well and could only understand why she made such a comment. “It would be hard but as we put our hearts to doing what Jesus would do if He were to be in our shoes, He releases strength and grace to us and it becomes quite easier to do.”
The class ended shortly after and they proceeded to the service. At the close of the service, it was the fellowship secretary, Ifeoma’s responsibility to read out the announcements. The only announcement that caught everyone’s attention was the last one; that was why Ifeoma made sure it was the last one. “Our school has qualified for the first time for the National Secondary Schools’ Bible Quiz Competition.” The news was welcomed with a loud applause. “Master Chuba Onwudiwe and Miss Ifeoma Soludo would be representing Imo State, being the winners of the State Competition.” There was a loud applause. As the students quieted, she read on. “It talks place on Saturday, 28th April 2007 at Royal College, Lagos.” Looking up, she added. “That’s just two weeks away.”
Moni could barely get to listen to what the Chaplain was saying. Bayo’s letter had sent her hormones on a wild chase. The moment she had seen his handwriting on the envelope, she had practically stopped breathing. She had gingerly opened the envelope, and pulled out the paper. She still remembered that aroma – Bayo’s perfume. She had been full of mixed emotions as she read. His words had been few but his meaning clear. She looked up when she heard girls giggle. She saw the Chaplain was trying to swing as a girl would; demonstrating a point. He was a humorous man!
She looked down at her knapsack and pulled out the letter again.

I know you must really hate me now. I really hope you’re reading this letter. I have missed you like hell. I dream of you every night. I cannot get you off my mind. I was a fool to cheat on you; I’m very sorry love, please forgive me and give me a second chance. I cannot live without you.
And guess what? As the 2006 NBQC champion, I would be coming over to your school to give the trophy to this year’s winner. Are you still representing Royal? See you soon, sugarpie!
I love you, my heart!

She read the letter one more time and slipped it back into her knapsack. He had succeeded in destroying all her defenses with those few words. She had actually forgotten all about the competition. She had been preoccupied with preparations for WAEC and the homecoming. She had a lot of revising of her bible notes to do. ‘Bayo is coming! How on earth will I… Oh! This is so…’ Her thoughts were all jumbled. Pearl had told her to take it easy and put the guy in his place.
“He’ll take you for a cheap girl if you just fall for his words again,” Pearl had said.
“But he sounds sincere”
“As they always do. Don’t fall for this dear”
Pearl’s words came back. How wasn’t she supposed to fall for this? ‘Pearl doesn’t understand. How can she? She’s never even fallen a guy before. I have always hoped he would come back and here he is begging me, actually begging me to come back. I’ll be a slacker if I don’t make the best of this opportunity’ she thought to herself. ‘What do I have to lose, at least – ’
“…Moni Williams and Pearl Okposu will be representing us” the Chaplain was saying, interrupting her thoughts. “We’ll be hosting 11 schools from around the country, so I expect we’ll put up our best behavior. It’s two Saturdays from today and a lot of preparations are already in gear with more to follow.” He took a pause and looked at Pearl who was at the choir stand and then at Moni in the congregation. “I’m sure this competition would not affect your reading for your exams, right?” They both nodded.
After the service, Moni waited for Pearl to be through with her fellow choristers. When she was done, they walked to the dining hall together.
“It was as if the Chaplain was in our room when we talked yesterday” Pearl said.
“How’s that?” Moni asked.
Pearl frowned. “You obviously weren’t listening. Na wa o! Is it because of this Bayo boy?”
“Leave that one. What did the Chaplain talk about? I saw you guys laughing.”
“Was talking about how the media as influenced us. Saying it has even gone past affecting how we dress and talk to how we walk and even eat. Sounded ridiculous but I’m beginning to agree with him.”
“So, what’s bad in that?”
“He said we’re learning from people who are themselves very confused.”
“What else will a Chaplain say? I beg, let’s talk of something else”
“Wait” Pearl said, sounding rather serious. “I saw light today o! You might have been convinced if you listened yourself. Why is it that with all their sexy dresses and trim figures, they cannot keep their husbands? Why do they sing of love and happiness and end their nights in depression, resorting to cigarettes and alcohol?”
“That makes some sense” Moni agreed.
“A lot of sense in fact. Their lives are not as smooth as they paint to us. We had better not be fools like some have been. I actually cried in service, I wasn’t the only one sha!”
“You, Pearl of all people, cry?”
“Oh yeah!”
“What happened? Was I that distracted?”
“I bet you were. Chaplain told the story of a girl who decided to live out what she was watching…” Pearl’s eyes filled. “The summary is that she ended very terribly.”
There was a moment of quiet between the two of them as they entered into the dinning hall. Some girls were chattering, but most seemed quite introspective. Moni guessed it was as a result of what Pearl said the Chaplain preached about. She smiled. It was good to see Royal girls sober for a change. If they weren’t chattering about boys or latest films, or in-vogue clothes, then they were nagging at each other. It was good to see at least some girls calm down for once.
When they were seated, Moni decided to know at least a little of what was causing this soberness. “Please, tell me Pearl. Or don’t you want me to gain too?”
“Aight. The girl had terrible self esteem. Through the media, she thought dressing and behaving like them would fix her up. So, she went quite wayward, and surprisingly, her self image seemed to improve. She soon mastered Beyonce’s hip swing. The chaplain tried to mimic her steps.”
“Oh, I guess that was what I saw when girls giggled.”
“Yeah” Pearl said, smiling as she remembered his gestures. “She eventually started dating this Nigerian artiste and he introduced her to drugs.”
“Who was this artiste? Someone we know?”
“The Chaplain said he was a popular figure but he would withhold his identity.”
“Whatever! So, what happened to this girl?”
“She got hooked to the drugs, dropped out of school and became the guy’s ‘dog’. He kinda sexually abused her every time as payment for the heroine ‘cos she could no longer pay for it.”
“That’s inhumane”
“Yeah. She eventually killed herself to end the misery.” The tears were back in Pearl’s eyes. “Can you imagine a proper girl who just felt unloved ending up so terribly just because she got inspired by the wrong folks.”
“Hmmm. Are you sure he didn’t make up the story.”
“No. He didn’t. He said it was his own kid sister he told us about.”
“That’s so sad!”
“He said he could tell the story so freely now because he knew God had forgiven him for his negligence and he had forgiven himself. And that that’s why he’s committed to helping and counseling young girls like us, so we don’t end up like his sister did.”
“That’s nice of him”. After a short pause, she added. “But why is he just telling us this story after being with us for almost a session now?”
“I don’t know” Pearl admitted. “But I have a strong feeling that it’s because of how he saw many girls looking enthralled by Shola. I guess he felt it was the best time to tell us about it”
Both of them were quiet, knowing fully well the impact that statement had on Moni. Pearl eventually broke the silence. “I’ll see you after lunch. My table members need me to go get our food.”
“Aight” Moni said and contemplated Pearl’s words. ‘Shola isn’t bad. Is she? Maybe she’s only flaunting what she has; nothing more!’ Moni tried to convince herself.
Obafemi Awolowo University was unusually empty. The second semester had just begun and most students were doing their online registration at home and didn’t need to be in school to register like at other times. There were only a few students who had come back from home or who hadn’t even gone home at all such as those doing Industrial Attachment (IT) in school, final year students working on their projects, Student Union Government members, Fellowship executive members on retreat and many more students for different reasons.
In the minority were people like Shola Bankole who were in school because they had to be. She was in her room. She had just returned from Lagos, after attending her secondary school’s homecoming. She lay on her bed expecting a phone call, actually, dreading a phone call. It didn’t take long before her phone rang. She picked it up and put it to her ear.
“Hello” … “I just came back” … “No. There was holdup on the express and –” … She put the phone away from her ear; he was shouting! She put it back when he had lowered his voice. “I heard you sir. I’m sorry” … “Yes. I drove the Jeep. Musa followed behind with the Corolla” … “Now?” … “I thought it was to be –” … “Okay. I’ll be there. Give me thirty minutes.” She hung up.
Shola sat up and buried her face in her hands. ‘What have I gotten myself into? I have become Professor Toriola’s puppet. I don’t even have a life of my own anymore. The money is good, the grades are excellent, but my life seems to be slipping away from me. I don’t even have real friends again; I’m surrounded by vain girls…like me’. Her eyes filled and were about to overflow. ‘No. It’s not time for tears now Shola’ she chided herself. ‘You got yourself into this; nobody forced you. It’s too late to turn back now’. She rose and started dressing up. Her thoughts wandered back to the events at Royal College, especially the happy and exuberant faces she saw. “How I would give everything and anything in the world to become innocent and free again like those girls!” she said, biting her lips to keep from breaking down in tears.

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