The Good Shepherd church was known all over the state for its dynamic and vibrant youth church. They organized crusades, outreaches, concerts, bible expositions and lots more. Majority of the active members were teenagers and a few were above the teen age. It was a church every teenager in Ondo State, Nigeria wanted to visit again after a first experience.
There were counseling sessions with peer counselors. Fellow teenagers, who were more mature in faith and more exposed, counseled other teenagers and young adults. There were also tutorial classes organized for those with academic challenges and a welfare arm for those in need. Indeed, it was a church that catered for the spirit, soul and body of each member.
Many had good reports about the church but not all. Some became victims of opportunism, even in the same church.
“You’re just as shallow as your mother. I should have sent you packing with her.” After a moment of silence, he added, “Can’t you say anything, silly? You just keep looking like a dummy, wetting your face with those crocodile tears. That prostitute you call your mother used those tears to weaken me once; don’t think you can fool me like she did.”
Walking closer to his daughter who was cowering at the far corner of the living room, he took note of her adolescent body changes for the first time in a long while. He bent down and lifted up her chin. Looking into her eyes, all he could see was fear and innocence and his heart tugged at him. But when he remembered what her mother, his ex-wife, did to him, his fury burned again.
Staring intently at her, though she had dropped her gaze, he asked condescendingly, “Or have you started sleeping around too?”
At that, she jerked her face away, stood up and ran to her room where she cried her eyes out. He did not follow her. Whenever he felt he should apologize to her, he remembered that she was a product of his first marriage and that fact alone was enough to silence any feeling of remorse.
When she was left with no more strength to weep, Febi sat on the rocking chair in her room and sobbed. She remembered the days when her dad used to love her and virtually spoil her. Many occasions when he carried her on his back for his morning strolls; they were pleasant but painful memories at the same time. Things changed drastically for them five years prior.
Five years back, her father discovered that his wife, Febi’s mother, had been cheating on him. He had trusted her so much that the knowledge left him shattered. Three months later, they had a divorce. The marriage had been eleven years before the incidence. The court ruled that her father should keep her. Then, she was only ten years old. Now fifteen, she wondered why her dad had agreed to keep her in the first place.
Her father, popularly known as Barrister Popoola, was a well known lawyer in Ondo State. To avoid the scandals that come with celebrity divorces, he had urged the court to allow him keep his daughter. What made matters worse was that he re-married barely one year after and it had been misery for Febi ever since. Her step-mother was never fair to her. She never laid hands on her though, but always accused her falsely to her father.
Her step-mother was presently pregnant after waiting for over three years. She had just accused Febi of leaving her alone in the kitchen to do all the cooking which made her father slap and hit her. Whereas, in actual fact, Febi had done all the work and the step-mother had sent her on errands all through the day, being a Saturday. She was out to buy a recharge card for her step-mother when her father returned. So, it was easy for her step to accuse her; she concluded by saying Febi had gone to play with her friends, leaving her alone in the house.
Febi knew however that her father would not listen to her if she told him the truth, so she didn’t bother saying anything. He never believed her if what she said contradicted what his new wife said. Febi always looked forward to school because then she would be far away from home. Monday was always her happiest day. Unfortunately however, she didn’t have friends in school either. She was brilliant, and due to her poor self-image, she was also very quiet and hardly talked to anyone. She was regarded as a snob because of that, and many students resented her.
The only friend she had was a computer nerd, who was also not in regular social circles. They kept each other company a couple of times. But comparing both, school was still much better for her than her house.
As she was rocking in her room, a fresh wave of tears rose within her as she remembered a day when she eavesdropped on her father in his room. He was fond of thinking out loud when alone. In his room, he had said one night, ‘Febi is so beautiful and intelligent. I’m proud of her and wish I could tell her so. But she reminds me of what her mother looked like when I met her for the first time. Febi, forgive me. It’s not you I hate but your mother.’
She had heard her father say those words. She could tell from his voice that he had been crying and that he meant every word he had spoken. That was the only thing that had kept her from running away from the house; she knew her father still loved her.
Wiping away her tears, she resorted to visiting her best friend, the TV. She put on the TV and flipped through channels till one station caught her attention. She saw a bunch of teenagers having so much fun and seeming like there were no problems in the world to be worried about. At the end of the commercial, she saw it was a church, named “The Good Shepherd church”, with the address written beneath. She made a mental note of the name and address; that had never been a problem for her. She memorized things easily.
‘I sure want to have what those guys have. I would visit the church this Sunday’, she thought to herself. As she lay down to sleep, the last images on her mind were the happy teenagers she saw and she imagined herself being one of them some day. She really hoped she would be happy again.