IMO STATE (FRIDAY 3RD AUGUST, 2007)
Ifeoma was sorting through her belongings. She was packing for the African Christian Students’ Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, scheduled for Sunday 5th to Saturday 11th of August. She was unpacking her traveling bag. She had just removed a few things in it since returning home after her Valedictory service last month. As she emptied the bag, she saw a folded piece of paper.
‘Oh! The letter Chuba wrote to me’. She had been looking for it but didn’t know where she kept it. Now when she saw it, she remembered she’d been trying to hide it where no one could easily see it. She had put it under her clothes in the bag. She picked it up again, and opened it with mixed feelings. It was a short note. She began to read.
How are you? I’ve wanted to tell you this for quite some time now. I don’t have to but I feel obligated to. If we are really friends as we claim we are, I feel I should let you know I’m not what you think. Much earlier in my life, I was exposed to pornography and somehow, I’ve gotten stuck. It progressed to masturbation two years back when I was at home after our SS1. I have tried over and again to stop but haven’t been able to make it.
At times, I make it for about two weeks or a month then, I relapse again. I’m still struggling with it and praying that God will help me. In fact, I fell yesterday, and felt so guilty when I had to teach Sunday school the same day. I don’t know what you’d think of me after this, but that is Chuba for you. The best you can do for me is pray for me; I’ll really appreciate that.
Ifeoma relived the day she read the letter for the first time. She had been initially disappointed but that feeling was soon replaced with concern for Chuba. He sincerely didn’t want to do it but felt helpless to help it. Right there, she bowed her head and said a prayer for him.
At lunch that day, she found him they talked. He was surprised that she still came to him, and she could see that he was greatly encouraged. Instead of parting ways, they had even become better friends, friends who had no secrets between them and who desired each other’s good. She had made it a duty to fast and pray about Chuba’s addiction every Friday. And Chuba had made it a duty to fast and pray about Ifeoma’s self-esteem and confidence.
She had just broken her fast after praying for him before she started packing. She was sure; he would soon call, so they could pray a prayer of agreement. As she was thinking it, her phone rang, and she knew it was Chuba. She had assigned his number a different ringing tone.
“Hi. Ready?” he asked.
“Mm-hmm” and he led a short prayer with Ifeoma agreeing by saying Amen.
“Felt something as I fasted and prayed today.” Chuba said, rather seriously.
“What was that?”
“That we should include a few more Christian friends in our circle, who we’d be as blessing to and vice-versa”
“I’m not convinced. Is that the only reason?” Ifeoma knew the reason but hoped Chuba won’t say it.
“Actually, I think we need other people around us, so we don’t get too emotionally attached to each other, seeing we’re not in a relationship.”
Ifeoma knew it was the right thing to do but she knew it would be hard all the same. “Any suggestions?”
“Not really. I was thinking we’d agree on that on our trip and would be ready to incorporate them when we are back from South Africa.’
“Nice idea” Ifeoma said, appreciating Chuba’s wisdom once again.
“Heard they would lodge the four of us at Sheraton tomorrow.”
“Would be nice seeing Moni and Pearl again, especially Pearl’
“Yeah, she was the one who came over to talk to us that day; enjoyed our brief talk.”
“We would sure have fun” She said, then added, “When are we leaving for Lagos?”
“First thing tomorrow, with Cross Country”.
“Okay then. I have so much packing to do.”
“Would call you later tonight”
“Okay” she smiled. “Will be expecting your call”. The line went dead and she dropped her phone. She was fallen hard for this guy. She was glad he was desirous of pleasing God and doing things right. Involving others in their friendship would obviously taper the growing emotions. She smiled again. It was always fun and peaceful doing things God’s way.
LAGOS STATE (FRIDAY 3RD AUGUST, 2007)
The Honda Accord was about to move when the driver’s glass came down. “Don’t miss us too much dear. We’ll pray for you” Pearl’s step-father said from the car.
“I’ll try not to, dad. And please pray for me as you’ve said.”
“Call us when you get to South Africa and please keep your copy of the key very well.’
“I will, dad” She bent to look in the car and waved at her mum seated in front and her brother at the back seat. Chief Okposu eased out of the compound and Pearl locked the gate.
She couldn’t suppress the smile. Her family was going for RCCG Convention at Redemption Camp. The convention was starting upper Monday but they had decided to start the Okposu convention a little earlier. Her step father had practically become a pastor in the last four months. It had all started when Kafy was discovered pregnant.
She’d accused Pearl’s step-father but when he confessed his impotency, she confessed it was the neighbor’s driver that was responsible. She was sent away, and Chief was left with the problems he’d brought on himself. Pearl’s mum was really mad at him and threatened to divorce him. Pearl, however never ceased praying for them.
Till the present, Pearl can’t explain what happened. After sleeping in separate rooms for a whole month, Mrs Okposu suddenly woke up one morning and told her husband he was forgiven. When Michael described the scenario to Pearl, he had said their step-father was open-mouthed; couldn’t believe what had just happened. It was indeed a miracle.
The next day, which was a Sunday, he took the whole family to a nearby church, a Redeem parish. He told them that he’d sworn to God that he would serve Him if he didn’t have any STI and if his wife took him back and forgave him. Fortunately for him, he didn’t and she did. He promised to fulfill his vow, and that he was doing, and doing so well.
Pearl was amazed at God’s grace and was indeed glad that she found Him when she did. How would she have known that a crisis was about to break forth in her family. But He knew and saved her and because of that, her family was saved from what had destroyed many homes in times past. She was grateful to God.
‘God, you’ve been too kind to me. I dedicate my whole life to you. I don’t need any guy in my life; you’re man enough for me. I’ll live every breath for you. Please, be glorified in me’ was Pearl’s heart cry.
She walked in and closed the door. She had packing to do ahead of the trip. Moni had said in passing that she wasn’t going again, and Pearl wondered why her friend would let such an opportunity pass her by. She decided to call her friend.
“I’m good. Have you changed your mind?”
“No, I haven’t”
“Girlfriend, why now? We were looking forward to this, weren’t we?”
“Yes, but there are better fishes to catch now.”
“Why don’t you tell me about them?” Pearl asked, hoping Moni would say something. She had been evasive ever since they graduated. She avoided visiting or being visited by Pearl. She didn’t answer questions directly. Pearl was worried for her. “You know you can still trust me” Pearl said.
“I know. We’ll talk more when you’re back. Keep the entire gist for me o!”
“You know I will but I really wish you would come!”
“Baby, let’s not go there, okay?”
“Take good care of you. I’ll miss you” Pearl, said sincerely.
“I’ll miss you too” Moni said.
“If you change your mind, please tell me.”
“You’d be the first to know” Moni said.
Pearl sighed, hoping against hope that her friend would change her mind. Pearl cut the line, not knowing she’d wish later that she’d been a little more persuasive during this conversation.
Moni dropped her phone and smiled. If she had any friend in the whole world, it was Pearl. But there were some things better left unsaid. ‘Pearl, you won’t understand’. Moni thought to herself. They had both weathered the storms of secondary school life together. They had rejoiced when they did their last WAEC paper. They had cried during their valedictory service, knowing things where not going to be as usual, no matter how hard they tried.
She remembered Pearl comforting her when she was scared she would get pregnant after her episode with Bayo. Somehow, it seems Pearl’s prayer had worked and she didn’t get pregnant. To kind of repay God and Pearl, she broke the relationship with Bayo, and Pearl seemed happy. She wasn’t sure if God was happy but she hoped He was. It was a huge sacrifice on her part to let go of Bayo and she hoped God saw that and appreciated the favor she was doing Him.
But as time went by, she forgot all about the fears and guilt-trips. A few weeks after graduation, she met this guy, Joseph. He called himself Joe-black. He was actually black, not dark, but black. He was a model-manager, at least, so he called himself. He noticed her on her street and talked her into modeling; raining praises on her ‘slim, shapeous and curvey body’, in his own words.
She agreed after a week of persuasion and their first outing was with an upcoming fashion magazine. She made #15,000 from it, after giving Joe-black his 25% commission of the #20,000 deal. It was too good to be true. Moni imagined how much she would make if she walked her way up the ladder to model for top Nigerian magazines, and maybe International magazines eventually.
She stood up and looked at herself in her life-size mirror. She was wearing a pink gown; she’d just returned from a get-together of models before Pearl called. What she saw took her four months back. She looked just like Shola Bankole. She was so proud of herself. She turned and observed her features; she was actually looking more attractive than Shola. ‘If I can keep up my shape, I’d steal all the attention from Shola next year’s Home Coming. I can’t wait to see the looks on people’s faces.’ She smiled. ‘Shola, thanks for the inspiration; I owe you’
There was one problem however. She had been making out with Joe-black. She had learnt in the past few weeks of working with other models that it was the norm in the manager-model ‘contract’. She had however discovered the day before that she was pregnant. She was scared and wanted to call Pearl but knew what Pearl would say, and she didn’t want to hear it.
She knew she would see Joe-black that day so she kept it. She saw him at the get-together and had pulled him aside to tell him. She had expected a frown or a scowl, but he smiled as someone who was used to hearing such statements. “It’s okay dear” he’d said. “You’ll go for an abortion tomorrow”
“No way” she had said, knowing that was the likely option but still wanting to fight for an alternative.
“Remember, the contract interview you have on Monday”
“Yes?” Moni asked, wondering what the correlation was.
“They perform pregnancy tests for their intending models to ensure there’ll be no disappointments once the contract is signed.”
Moni’s eyes were wide. “I can’t lose that #250,000 contract”
“You’d be dumb to do so” he said, smiling and walking her back to the hall where others were dancing.
“The interview is Monday” Moni, said still pensive.
“That’s why I said you should get rid of that thing tomorrow.”
“Okay”, she replied as they entered the hall. “Where’s the place?” she had asked.
“I’ll text the address to you” he whispered in her ears as they mingled with others.
Moni flipped through her phone and saw the text he’d sent a few minutes back. She would visit the clinic tomorrow. She hoped she would have healed well enough o go for the interview on Monday. She couldn’t miss it for anything in the world; not even for the African Christian Students’ Conference in Cape Town, South Africa which she and Pearl had planned to attend.
As she contemplated the abortion, she remembered overhearing some Royal girls say they had had a private chat with Shola Bankole when she came for the Home Coming. She doubted it but listened to them anyway. They had said Shola admitted to having committed three abortions already that there was really no big deal in it. Now, thinking back, she chose to believe the girls’ words. ‘If Shola could do it and still look so prim and proper without any defects or side effects, I can do the same; she doesn’t have three heads.’
She couldn’t tell that to Pearl. ‘I would explain it all to Pearl when she’s back’ she thought to herself as she wrote down the address of the abortion clinic. She didn’t trust PHCN to bring light and her battery was almost out. She absolutely forgot that the foreboding she’d had four months back that hadn’t materialized was dependent on her getting pregnant. And now, she was pregnant.