IMO STATE (SUNDAY, 29TH APRIL, 2007)
The bus drove into Imo state at about 7am. They still had a fifteen minutes drive before getting to their school. They had all slept most of the way, and chatted when they were up to it. Ijeoma hadn’t gotten the answer to the question she had posed to God yet and wondered what she should do about her feelings for Chuba.
She looked in his direction and saw he was still sleeping. It had been fun being with him through the journey but she knew life won’t be the same once they returned to school. Their academics and leadership responsibilities were bound to keep them busy, preventing them from having time to talk like they had just enjoyed. Ijeoma chose to make the best of the few minutes left. She tapped Chuba gently. “We’re in Imo”
“Mmm!” he stirred.
“We’ll soon be in school. Hope you rested well?” she asked.
He straightened up. “Yes I did. Thanks.” He looked at her. “You don’t look like you slept”
“I don’t sleep when traveling but I confess I dozed off a couple of times.” She smiled.
“Nature can’t be cheated!”
“You bet!” Ijeoma affirmed, and turned back to see her colleagues were still sleeping. She decided to let out a bit of her heart before the others awoke. “It was really really nice going to Lagos” she said and felt silly. ‘Ijeoma, don’t be silly. That’s not what you’re supposed to say’ she chided herself.
“It was a nice trip” Chuba said.
“Guess the times I enjoyed the most?” she asked, still groping for how to express how she felt.
“The meals at Excellence hotel; it was obvious you enjoyed their meals.”
Ijeoma was flushed. She must have been obvious. She actually emptied her plate on all occasions they ate.
“Don’t be embarrassed. I did the same. You’re not less of a lady, as far as I’m concerned. You were hungry and you ate to your satisfaction. Simple!”
Ijeoma smiled. “Thanks,” she paused “but the times I enjoyed most where the times we were together; studying together, eating together, answering questions at Royal together, traveling together and talking with each other.”
Chuba was taken off guard. “Really?”
“Really. Thanks for making it a lovely trip for me” she said, smiling at him.
“I really don’t know what I did or said to make it nice but thanks anyway. It was my pleasure.”
“I hope we still maintain this cord as we return to school” Ijeoma said.
“Sure. Why not!”
‘Should I ask now, should I not? Should I, Should I not?’ Ijeoma’s stomach was full of butterflies and her palms sweaty. She summoned courage and decided to take the risk. “Chu…”
“Wake up guys, we’re a minute away from school”, their teacher, who had just woken voiced out to his students, interrupting Ijeoma. The other students woke up and Ijeoma swallowed her words. A few seconds after, the bus drove into the school compound and the Principal was already standing in front of her office, waiting to receive them.
‘I’ll find time to ask him later’ Ijeoma thought to herself as she put her things together, getting ready for the warm reception they were bound to receive.
They were both seated in the chapel. The Principal had already heard the news but was still excited when she saw them; other students joined in celebrating their heroes. After the welcome, she had told them they could rest till lunch but both Chuba and Ifeoma had missed Friday fellowship and longed to attend the Sunday morning service.
When it was time for the sermon, the Chaplain announced that there was a guest speaker who would talk to them on sex and dating. Kristos students hooted when they heard that. Chuba looked at Ijeoma, smiling. “They just can’t get enough of these talks.”
“Neither can I?”
Chuba was surprised. “You? What new thing could you possibly hear today that hasn’t been said in all the talks on sex and dating we’ve had.”
“You never can tell, Chuba!”
He wasn’t convinced. “You’ll do me one favor, Ijeoma?”
“Okay. What is it?” she asked.
“I doubt it, but if you gain something new, would you tell me?”
“Sure. Is that the favour?”
Chuba nodded, and returned his attention to the speaker who had already started her talk. She talked about familiar things, explaining again why boys and girls should stay as virgins till marriage; talking about the many blessings and joys that come with it. Then she talked about dating, stating however, that they were to note the points for the future, that they didn’t need dating at their ages and present status.
She told stories of secondary school students who had ruined themselves by early dating, ruined both emotionally and physical. For those who were care-free, she stated that the emotional scars are usually more sever than the physical scars, so it was best to just wait for the right time for both dating and sex.
“She seems more concerned for you girls; you’re the one with issues” Chuba said, winking at Ijeoma.
“I don’t agree. You’re the ones that cause our problems, aren’t you?”
“It’s all interwoven I must concede”
“Better” Ijeoma said, feigning a scowl. They continued listening. Just as she was about to round up, the speaker voiced out. “And as for you girls who are so in love with a guy that you want to ask him out, this is for you.” Ijeoma’s ears tingled. ‘Wow! This is no coincidence, God must have a word for me’.
“No matter how much you think you like a guy”, the speaker continued, “You’re never to ask a guy out. It’s not your place; it’s the guy’s job.”
“Preach it preacher!” An excited male student shouted from the congregation.
The speaker smiled. “God created you to be pursued; to be found, not the other way around. Can I hear the girls say an Amen to that?”
“Amen” girls chorused.
“So, when you like a guy in the nearest future and believe he’s for you, pray about it. Tell God to make him come if he’s for you. Don’t go belittling your female pride, so you aren’t taken for granted. Trust God who wants the best for you. He will make him come if he’s the best for you. If not, a better guy will come. Can I hear another Amen to that?”
“Amen” girls screamed.
A girl towards the back raised her hand to ask a question.
“I usually don’t entertain questions until the end of my talk, but I’ll give you an exception. Yes, shoot”
“Thank you ma.” The girl said. “What if as a girl you are friends with this guy, but he’s getting real close, buying stuffs for you, being so nice and all but he’s not asking you out. What do you do in such a situation?” Kristos students giggled and passed side comments when they heard their colleague’s question.
“Shhh!” The speaker said, calming them down. “Nice question. What’s your name dear?”
“Oluchi, I think that girl is you, right?” There were more giggles in the chapel. Oluchi smiled nervously without responding. “You may sit down dear” The speaker took a few seconds to analyze the question. “What you do in that case is to ask the guy to define the friendship; tell him to clarify what his motives are. If he wants to date you, you’ll tell him you’re not ready for that yet. But if he’s just doing it as a friend, then you can enjoy your friendship without any fears, strings attached or unanswered questions.” She paused and looked in Oluchi’s direction, smiling. “You now know what to tell that guy, right?” Oluchi smiled and nodded.
The speaker finished a few minutes after and the service soon ended. When they rose to leave, Chuba looked at Ijeoma. “So, what new thing did you learn?”
Ijeoma wondered whether or not to tell him, but she remembered she’d promised.
“Do I have to tell you?”
“You promised!” He smiled, feeling triumphant.
“All right, then. That I should never ask a guy out no matter how much I like him”
Chuba looked surprised. “You didn’t know that before?”
“No, I didn’t” she admitted.
Chuba’s looked turned from shock to mischief. “So, who’s this lucky guy?”
“I didn’t promise you that information, so I aint telling” she smiled and walked towards the chapel exit.
Chuba couldn’t help laughing at his friend. “You too shy to tell me?” he asked, still laughing. When she didn’t respond, he hurried to catch up with her. “Wait for me now.” He caught up with her. “Or is it him you’re hurrying to see?” She punched him in the tummy and ran, laughing. He recovered quickly, and chased her. Though he made light of it, Chuba couldn’t explain the anxiety that flooded his mind that Ijeoma had another person she liked. ‘Or could it be me?’ he thought as he ran after his friend.
LAGOS (SUNDAY 29TH APRIL, 2007)
Pearl was in the dinning hall and had lost her appetite. The story Moni had told her the day before of her episode with Bayo was still upsetting her. She wondered why her friend could be so beclouded as not to see what Bayo was up to. The best she could do was pray for her. But more paramount on her mind was the hurdle she was up against in a few hours when she would be face-to-face with her step-father.
She looked forward to the Maranatha girls’ meeting that held every Thursday and then Sunday at 8:30am, thirty minutes before service. She had burdens she wanted to offload; she couldn’t think of bearing the weight alone. She looked at her side. “Do you want?” she asked the junior student sitting next to her, pointing at her food.
The student was surprised. No Royal girl played Sunday morning’s ‘Bread and Egg’. It was a priced meal. When she saw Pearl was serious, she nodded. Pearl handed it over to her and she was thanked with a broad smile. “Thank you”
“You’re welcome” she said. Smiling, she added. “Don’t expect it again next week o!” The girl giggled, and Pearl was glad she had somehow put a smile on someone’s face when her own heart was in its most trying moment. She waited for breakfast to be over and went straight to the classroom where the Maranatha girls met. She knew she had no else to turn to but God. ‘God, I need you; please help me!’ was her only plea as she made her way down to the class.