Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Novella: Choices (Chapter 7)

“I’m missing my Bayo. His phone has been off. I wonder why? Maybe there’s no network where he is”
“Amaka, don’t be ridiculous. In Lagos? No network?”
“Okay. Maybe his battery is dead”
Zainab wanted to hit a plank on her friend’s head. “What if he doesn’t want to speak with you?”
“You’ve come again with you pessimism. Bayo is not like that. You should have seen us in the past few days since we met.” Zainab had just returned from the break and Amaka had spent the whole day telling her about her boyfriend.
“With all you’ve told me about this guy, I can’t shake off the feeling that he is using you, and using you very well, in fact. Can’t you see? You met one day, you were in his arms the same day. What responsible guy would do that?”
“A guy that loves me” Amaka said.
“A guy that took advantage of you would be a better answer”
Amaka frowned. “Why are you always against anything good for me? Are you jealous? Is it because I’m having a boyfriend now and you don’t?”
“You know me better than that, Amaka” Zainab said, trying to keep her voice low.
“Then, at least be happy for me that I’ve found someone who loves me and will always be there for me.” Amaka paused to try Bayo’s number again. It didn’t go through. “And to set the record straight, girlfriend, he didn’t take advantage of me, I willingly allowed him”
Zainab laughed. “Did you have any power to resist him?”
“Na you sabi.”
“Do you have his picture?” Zainab smiled at herself. “I can’t believe I didn’t even ask for the picture earlier, at least to see what this lover boy looks like.”
Amaka slid her hand under her pillow and pulled out an envelope. In it were a few pictures. She gave it to her friend.
Zainab pulled out the pictures and frowned as she looked as the first one. She looked up at Amaka who was grinning from ear to ear, then looked through the rest. “Do you know I care about you?” she said, looking so serious.
“Have I ever lied to you?”
“No! See Zainab, I don’t like this. What are all these questions for? Say what you want to say jo!”
Zainab passed the envelope back to Amaka. “You have to call it quits with this guy. Do you know he has dated two girls already this session? I didn’t know he was the one you were talking about. The girls are my friends. One is in 100level like us, but the other is in 300level. He ditched both of them after using them.”
Amaka smiled. “You worry too much. He has told me about them. He said he broke up with them because all they wanted was his money but that he’s found true love with me.”
“Lies! Those girls are as boxed up as he is.”
“Whatever! I’m still okay with him. At least, I’m the only one now and he has promised to keep it that way.”
She shook her head. “Unfortunately too, he only goes for likely-virgin-materials, so he’ll be the first. Must have noticed you and decided you were a virgin. He doesn’t roll with the ‘big girls’. He goes for the naïve, love-seeking and vulnerable ones.”
Amaka was stunned. The reality of that was sickening. She wanted to throw up. She fought hard to discard the words her friend just spoke but they seemed to be making more sense than she wanted to admit. “I really don’t want to believe this. But what if it’s true?”
“Then baby girl, you have to do what you must”
“I sure hope you’re wrong Zainab. I’ll talk with Bayo when he’s back.”
“You think he’ll tell you the truth?”
“I don’t care. I just want to see his reaction when I mention it. That will tell me a lot”
“All the best dear. I’m here for you, anyway” Zainab said, poking her friend.
Amaka smiled. “Thanks”. She put the envelope back under her pillow, and hoped against hope that Bayo was not what Zainab was painting him to be.
As Shola was about lifting herself to place her right leg on the bridge’s slab, she felt a vibration in her pocket. ‘Oh! I didn’t switch off my phone’. She was relieved to have a brief distraction before the dive. She didn’t really want to die but felt she had no choice. She brought down her right leg, and pulled out her phone. “I don’t know this number” she mouthed.
“Hello” she said, after picking the call, barely able to talk above a whisper.
“Shola, God loves you so much and is not mad at you.” The voice on the other end was saying. The guy was out of breath and Shola wondered why? The words he spoke sparked up hope in her heart, but she knew about God’s love though she’d turned her back on it. Her major question remained unanswered, ‘Does any human being still care about me?’
As she was still thinking, the voice said, “I care about you too. I’ve wanted to tell you for a while now. Please forgive me it’s late but I felt so strongly that if I didn’t tell you now, I would lose you for life.”
Shola couldn’t believe her ears or the speed with which hope was being restored to her heart. The tears kept running, but this time, they were tears of relief. She brought down her left leg and leaned against the slab, overlooking the pond. It then occurred to her she didn’t even know who was talking, all that had mattered to her was that someone cared about her. “Please, who is this?”
“Thomas Baderin” The line was silent. She had mixed feelings. Regret that she had shunned him for short a long time and surprise that he had feelings for her. It was too good to be true. ‘Someone must be playing tricks with me’ she thought.
“Thanks for calling. I have to go…”
“Please don’t hang up on me”, he pleaded. “I meant every word I spoke; about the love of God and my feelings for you”
“So, why are you just telling me?” she asked, sad but hopeful.
“With our previous episodes, I knew you won’t listen to me but just a few minutes back as I was reading a relationship book, ‘Boy Meets Girl’ and I was imagining you in the picture, the Holy Spirit ministered to me that if I didn’t get up then and call you, I’d be missing out on the best friend he could have ever given me”
Shola couldn’t believe her ears. “Where are you now?” he asked her.
“I’m on Road One”
“Going or coming from town?” Thomas asked?
“Neither. It’s a long story.”
“Can I come over?” he asked, cautious.
Shola couldn’t blame him; she could be quite nasty. Shola considered the request and decided it was best for him to see her in her worst state; right at the point where she wanted to end her life. If after what he saw, he was still committed, then he was worth the try. “I’m at the pond near maintenance.”
“I take that as a yes. Thanks. I would be there in five minutes”
Shola turned, with her back to the slab facing the road. She didn’t know how to explain the way she felt. ‘Shola, look what you’ve become. See your life; see what being a big girl did to you’ she thought, biting her lips. She thought of how she started as a bright and intelligent undergraduate with a supportive family, and compared it to what she was now; a used, dirty, family-abandoned and labeled girl. ‘Shola, see what your silly choices have done to you.’
She embraced herself; it was getting dark and cold. ‘Thomas, where are you?’ she thought. Just then a bus parked on the other side of the road. She guessed it was Thomas who got down. He crossed the road and walked toward her.
When he got to her, he extended his hand for a handshake, but looking at her face he withdrew his hand in shock. “You have been crying. What happened to you?”
Shola was sure she looked messed up; her make up must have been marred. The last time Thomas saw her, she’d been in New Buka eating at Spices with Pofessor Toriola, looking all prim and proper; she was the direct opposite now. ‘I wonder what he thinks of me now; he probably despises me’ she thought.
“Please talk to me, what happened to you?” Thomas said. He noticed Shola was cold. He pulled off the jacket he was wearing and put it around her.
“Thanks” she mouthed. “It’s a long story.”
“I’m all ears and I have all the time for you. Do you mind walking back to school or do we take a bus?”
“Walking would be better” Shola said.
“I was hoping you would say that.” Thomas said. They soon started towards the campus. It was a long road, so Shola was able to tell her story, not too detailed for fear that Thomas would not be able to handle it but detailed enough for him to understand why she’d considered killing herself.
By the time they were close to Moremi, Shola’s hall, she was through and Thomas had spoken a few words of comfort to her. “Thank you for trusting me with these private thoughts, Shola. I really feel honoured.”
“Thanks for listening and for your kinds words too.” After a pause, she asked, “And how do you feel about me now?”
“Honestly?” he asked.
“Mm-hmm” Shola hummed, afraid of what she’d hear.
“I admire your strength so far. I only wish I had been there for you earlier. I now feel a need to protect you, to be responsible for your wellbeing.”
“Thanks Thomas. You can’t know how much…” Shola suddenly stopped and looked at her wristwatch. “It’s almost 9:30.”
“I’m supposed to go to Olowoleyemo Resort to meet Alhaji Musa.” She said, and was suddenly scared. ‘If I’m going to stay alive, how on earth am I going to handle this problem with Prof and Alhaji?’
Thomas smiled. “Shola, I thought I told you that you don’t need to keep yourself under this bondage; you are more than this. With God, you’ll make it through this campus, no matter what Prof tries.”
Shola was pensive. “You sound so sure. I know what that man is capable of doing O!” She paused, as they reached the front of Moremi hall.
“Shola, you might know what that guy thinks he can do, but I know what God knows He can do, and will do for those who trust Him.” He smiled at her. “Sleep well tonight; please put off your phone, so no one disturbs you, especially Prof”
“I will”
“Was nice talking with you. Would it be okay if I came around about noon tomorrow, so we could go to my fellowship together in the afternoon?” He studied her face. “Hope I’m not pushing you too fast.”
“No, you’re not. In fact, I think I need a change of environment; need to meet new people.”
“I’m glad you feel that way.” He smiled at her again, “I’d better let you go; left to me, I would talk with you all night. See you tomorrow!” Thomas said, and turned to leave.
Thomas had taken a few steps before he heard his name called. He turned and walked back to Shola, with a questioning look. Shola opened her arms for an embrace and Thomas obliged. It was a brief hug. She stepped back and smiled, wearily. “Thank you Thomas, you saved me!”
He shook his head, holding her gaze. “I didn’t. He did”, he said pointing upwards. “But I’m so very glad he used me. I couldn’t have had a better birthday gift. God is indeed so sweet!”
Shola smiled mischievously. “You didn’t tell me it was your birthday, and you weren’t actually going to tell me?”
“I’m sorry. I felt your happiness was more important than mine”
“I’m so touched, Thomas. Happy birthday”, she said and inclined forward to give him a birthday hug. “What can I give you as a gift?” she asked.
“You’ve given me the best gift I’ve received today already. You gave me your trust.”
“That I did” Shola smiled. “But that isn’t enough”
“That’s more than enough. Thanks for making my day Shola; I feel fulfilled.” He patted her gently. “Go to bed friend. Good night”.
“Good night, my friend” Shola replied and felt a strange excitement at being able to call someone her friend after a very long time. Thomas smiled at her and walked away.
The night that started so dark for Shola had ended ever so beautifully. She got to her room, had her bath and lay on her bed. As she drifted to sleep, she remembered the first words Thomas spoke to her on the phone moments back; the words that saved her. ‘God loves you so much and is not mad at you… I care about you too. I’ve wanted to tell you for a while now’. A smile curved her lips as she closed her eyes. For the first time in a many months, Shola looked forward to seeing the new day; she had found a reason to live again.

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