Friday, May 1, 2009

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 1)

ARRIVAL
Many buses were parked in the large parking lot. Some were new and fine, while others were rickety. Without looking at the names on them, it was easy to know what school what bus belonged to. The fine ones were for the private schools, the average ones were for the federal schools, and the rickety ones were for the state schools. It wasn’t only buses that littered the park.
Students of different sizes and colours were standing by their buses, talking in circles or carrying their baggage to the registration venue. They had all come for the National Secondary Schools’ Leadership Conference. It was an annual event, a conference prefects from different schools longed at attend. The pre-requisites for qualifying were quite stringent, so only the best of the best attended.
This year, twelve schools were picked, and were to be trained for 10 days, arrival and departure days excluded, at the National Youth Development Center, Port Harcourt, in Rivers state. Each school was asked to bring ten of their top prefects. At the end, every participant was going to get a certificate of attendance but what freaked most attendees however, were the awards that would be presented on the last night; awards that attending students did anything and everything to get. Every year, some students did weird, absurd and unspeakable things to get these awards. Others however, came for different purposes. This year wasn’t going to be an exemption.
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DAY 1
Uche looked round at the different students that sat in the conference hall and all he felt was intimidation. ‘Why did I choose to come here in the first place?’ he scolded himself. He had never been the outgoing type and would have preferred to be left in his own world. This was more exposure than he could handle. He was the library prefect of Immaculate Technical College, Mbano, Imo state. He liked his position as he only had to take care of the books and ensure they were returned.
He didn’t have to talk at the assembly hall or dinning hall like his fellow colleagues did. It also afforded him time and opportunity to read more, which was his hobby. As the most intelligent student in his school, he had been cajoled to attend the conference by the Principal and he obliged. Now, after hearing that each student was going to give a 2-minute speech at the end of the training, he felt like entering the ground. This wasn’t what he had bargained for.
He stole a glance at his colleagues from school, who were seated at different places in the hall. They seemed happy and content. They had already started making friends. He wondered how they were able to get along with others so fast. An announcement distracted him from his thoughts. “We’ll be having a thirty minutes break now. Try and acquaint yourself with those around you. The orientation course will continue right after”
Many students stood up and walked about for different reasons. Uche just sat still. He remembered the previous day’s activities. Registration ended about 7pm, participants were checked into their rooms, and dinner was served at about 9pm. There was no general activity that night as they were allowed to settle in and rest well ahead of the activity-packed week.
Uche had been with his school mates. There were four boys and six girls from his school. He had nothing much to talk about with his colleagues, so he sat on his bunk and began reading Chinua Achebe’s ‘Things Fall Apart’. It wasn’t his first time reading it, but it was a book he could read over and over again because it affected his own people severely.
Strangely, he could hardly read much because of the noise the boys were making. Only a few were lying down or reading, most were at the top of their voices and their major topics of discuss were centered around girls and soccer. Uche had wanted to scream; both didn’t appeal much to him. He wondered how he would cope with such boys for nine nights.
Somebody poked him. He had been lost in thought, he hardly noticed students were already settling down from the break. He looked sideways and saw a girl smiling at him.
“Hello!” she said, waving her hand in his face with a mischievous smile. She acted as though they had met before. Uche wondered how a girl would be that forward. He wanted to be on his own. “Is something wrong?” she asked.
“No” he answered, politely.
“You just sighed”, she said, still looking at him with a questioning face.
Uche was a little confused. He couldn’t place her words too fast, she talked like a Northerner. “What?”
“You just sighed. Are you okay?”
He hadn’t noticed. “Oh…sorry. I didn’t know I did. I’m fine, thanks.”
“Would you want some chips?” she asked.
“No, thanks. I’m fine”
“Okay then.” She said and sat next to him, picking at her plantain chips. She still had a smile on her face and Uche wondered what she was up to. Before he could take his eyes off her, he noticed she reached to the back and picked her bag from the seat behind. It was quite an effort for her because she was short.
Uche was dumbfounded. He had been so happy when he had a quiet guy to his right and no one to his left. And now, he was about to have a happy, smiling, forward, and short Hausa girl disturb him. He wasn’t going to take that. “You can’t…” he had started to say but the look on her face shut him up.
“I can’t what?” she asked, still smiling, as she kept eating her chips. “Or is someone sitting here?” she asked, smiling.
Uche could see it that she was having fun. He couldn’t lie, he’d be caught. If she was sitting behind, then, she’d have known the seat was vacant throughout the first session. She raised an eye and Uche knew he was defeated.
“I’m Fatima” she said, and extended her hand for a handshake. She saw Uche look at her hand. She followed his gaze and saw that her hand was smeared with oil and plantain fragments. She giggled and quickly redrew it, looked in her bag for her hanky, cleaned her hand and stretched it out again; the smile not leaving her face.
“I’m Fatima” she said again.
Uche couldn’t help smiling. She had succeeded in infecting him. Looking at her, he could see she was pleased she had made him smile. “I’m Uche” he said, as he took her hand and pumped it lightly.
“Nice meeting you” she said.
“Same here” he said, sincerely, though hoping it would stop at that.
She was about to say something but at the same time, the announcer spoke up, clouding her voice. Uche was relieved. He turned and listened. The announcer was saying something about a guest they were expecting. Uche felt a pinch and flinched. It was Fatima again. “What?” Uche said, almost irritated.
“I was asking you why you’re so quiet?” she asked, looking more serious this time. Seeing her this way, Uche just wanted to stare at her a little longer, she looked beautiful, not the childish-look she had started with. He immediately cautioned himself, surprised at his reaction. He had never given a second look at any girl before.
“Please, can we keep this till after the session? It has started” He saw she was disappointed but still managed to smile. He faced the stage and listened. The announcer was saying “…so, we’ll have to wait for him. He’ll be hear in the next thirty minutes. So, your break is extended thirty minutes. Please don’t leave…” Uche wasn’t interested in the rest. This meant, he was stuck with Fatima’s chat for another thirty minutes. He looked at her and laughed spontaneously. She had stuck her tongue out of her mouth.
“Dah!” she said.
Uche was still laughing and she joined in. “You’re something” he said, recovering from his hearty laughter.
“Didn’t it feel good to laugh?”
“Yes, it did” Uche admitted.
“When last did you laugh; really laugh?” she asked, expecting an answer.
Uche thought about it and couldn’t answer. He tried to remember but the only time he could remember was three years back, when he was five and he wasn’t ready to remember that. He had buried it and was going to leave it buried.
“I cannot remember” he said, trying to make light of it but Fatima wasn’t fooled.
“What happened to you that took away your joy, Uche?” she asked.
Uche’s eyes filled and this surprised him. It wasn’t just the questions she asked him that got at him but the way she asked. There was a genuine concern and care in her voice. He gritted his teeth. He had vowed never to let anyone see his tears, nothing would change that.
“I don’t want to talk about it” he said.
“It’s okay. I understand’ she said. At that, he looked at her. No one could ever understand what he had gone through. But looking at her, he knew that somehow, she would understand if he told her. ‘Uche, get a grip. Don’t let this girl crumble all your defenses’, he suddenly chided himself. “It was nice meeting you Fatima. I’ll need some time of quiet before the session resumes.”
“Okay, if that’s what you want.” She said, then added. “It was nice meeting you too.”
Uche was disappointed. He had hoped she would pester him a little more. He needed someone to talk to. He knew that after the session, they would go for lunch, then sports, then evening session and on. He couldn’t think of a anything that would guarantee they meet and talk again. There were no permanent seats.
‘Maybe she really doesn’t care. Maybe, she just like everyone else’ he thought to himself. Her questions had however triggered memories and those memories filled his mind for the rest of the break. Just as the break ended and the Guest speaker was ushered to the podium, Uche heard that now familiar Hausa accent.
“Can we talk during lunch?” Fatima asked.
Uche looked at her, and saw that childish-smile again. He smiled back. “I’d be glad to” he said and saw seeing the relief on her face, he knew she indeed cared.
Uche’s heart beat faster with a mixture of joy and anxiety. He was going to do what he hadn’t done in ten years. He was about to open up to someone. He was about to come out of his shell. He was about to trust again. It was a scary thought and he sincerely hoped Fatima would be worth it.

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 2)

The session was over and Shade was pressed; she had to use the ladies. While announcements were going on, she left her seat and walked towards the facilities. On her way up the hall stairs, he noticed a familiar face. ‘Where did I know this girl?’ The girl was talking to the boy by her side and didn’t notice Shade. She wanted to call her but just then, her bladder told her she had to hurry. She hurried along, proposing to see the girl when she returned.
Getting to the toilet, she noticed it was much neater than the toilet in the hostel so, she decided to have a relaxed bowel movement, not the type with one hand on the nose and the other chasing away flies. As she eased herself, she tried to remember the girl’s name, or least recall where they met but the memory seemed very hazy.
When she was out of the facilities, most of the students had left the hall, including the girl she had hoped to see. ‘I’ll see her some other time’, she told herself. “Tunbosun!” she called to her friend, sitting rows away, where she’d been. “I’m done”
“Na wa for you o!” Tunbosun said, when she was closer. “Na thirty minutes you dey use piss for your school?”
“Sorry jare.” Shade said, collecting her writing pad from Tunbosun. “I decided to do the two together when I got to there.”
“Ah! Okay I for say o!” Tunbosun said, smiling.
“Na you sabi!” Shade responded as they walked out of the hall together. The organizers had consciously mixed up the participants so that no two students from the same school were bunk mates. Shade and Tunbosun had been paired, and they had kicked off well. Shade was from Federal Government College, Ipetumodu, Osun state, while Tunbosun was from Standford College, Abuja.
“How come you speak broken English often? Is it allowed in your school?” Shade asked Tunbosun.
“No, it’s not. I could be suspended if caught, but I live in Warri and that’s how I talk with my friends at home. Don’t mind me, I’m a tush girl o” Tunbosun said, smiling.
“You don’t have to tell me. I know. Anyone from Standford has to be tush”
“I agree. The money we pay in that school is too much. I told my parents over and again to take me to a Federal school were the standard is the same and fees are cheaper but they insisted, claiming they wanted a Christian private school for me.” Tunbosun paused, then added. “But do you know what?”
“What?” Shade asked.
“I think they put me in that school for prestige purposes. They couldn’t imagine the only child of Senator Badmos going to any other school than the most expensive in Abuja.”
“You cannot blame them”
“I agree but that is not the kind of life I want for myself. I want to grow up to be independent, exposed and mature; able to do what is right by choice not because somebody somewhere is monitoring me.”
“Don’t be biased. There are some good sides to been in a private school; no strikes, close monitoring academically, and nice environment especially in the Christian ones like yours.”
“You’re right Shade. Maybe, I just feel the money is too much. I guess I should read Economics, and not Medicine” Tunbosun said, laughing at herself. “I get too calculative when it comes to money. Do you know how many hungry people my school fees for a session would cater for?”
“I can’t imagine”
“You’d better not. People have different opinions and are permitted to and I have mine too.”
“You’ve given me something to think about” Shade said as they entered the dinning hall. They had barely entered when Shade heard someone call Tunbosun. She looked at Tunbosun and saw she didn’t respond. “That guy is calling you” she said.
“Let’s get a seat first.” Tunbosun said, ignoring the boy calling her. When they were seated, she started. “That guy has been disturbing me since yesterday, when we got here” Shade looked in his direction but Tunbosun didn’t as she continued. “I have been around guys enough to know what he wants.”
Shade, who was a student of an only girls’ school, was at a loss. She kept listening.
“I noticed he hit it off with Okpara right at the parking lot before registration.”
“Who’s Okpara?” Shade asked.
“A fellow prefect from my school, who has been asking me out since our SS1 days. I’m sure Okpara has told him about me. Maybe he wants to show how macho he is. He likely wants to prove to Okpara he can have any girl he wants.”
“How are you sure? Do you even know his name? What if he just wants to be nice?” Shade asked.
“I know some things, girlfriend. You can count the reasonable guys we have now adays. And those few, you’ll know them when you see them. I’ll show you one when I see one”
“What’s his name?”
“Stanley. I don’t even like his name”
“You’re funny Tunbosun”
“Don’t mind me jare.” Just then, they called the table they were seated on. “It’s our turn.” They stood and walked towards the serving point. When they reached the serving point, the join the queue; there were two lines. Shade was in front on Tunbosun.
“Shade!” the guy beside her on the other line called. Shade was taken aback; she didn’t know this guy.
“Hello” she managed to say. Looking at the guy, she was barley able to breath. The guy was fine! And he was so close. She looked away.
“I have heard so many nice things about you” he said, trying to continue the conversation. Shade felt a little embarrassed because people close by could hear him. “It’s a pleasure meeting you.”
Shade simply nodded.
“I hope we’ll get to see some other time. My name is Utibe” he said, extending his hand for a handshake. Shade accepted it.
“Guess you already know my name.” she said, trying to look affected by his stare. His handshake lingered and Shade seemed unable to withdraw her hand.
“Hey girlfriend, it’s your turn”, Tunbosun said, poking her from behind; rescuing her.
Shade withdrew her hand and collected her food, still flushed from her conversation with Utibe. She waited for Tunbosun to get hers and they walked back together.
Tunbosun had a smile on her face as they walked back. When they reached their seat, she giggled. “You should have seen yourself, Shade.”
“I beg. Don’t tease me. I don’t know what happened to me there.”
“Would you believe me if I told you that guy had rehearsed all that?”
“He seemed so nice. No guy has spoken to me like that before.” Shade looked at Tunbosun and saw her mock face. “I’m serious. I have two brothers and we quarrel often. I hardly go out, so contact with guys is minimal. Some guys have asked me out, but there’s nothing about them to trip me.” Shade paused, momentarily lost. “Did you see how he looked at me? Did you hear his accent? Did you notice how fine he is?”
Tunbosun, tapped her shoulders repeatedly. Shade looked at her but Tunbosun continued. “Hey, watsup?” Shade asked, bemused.
“Wake up! Wake up girl. Don’t just fall for a guy because of his outward qualities. There’s more to everyone than meets the eye.”
“Tunbosun, I understand, but this guy seems okay. If he wants to make friends with me after now, I’d gladly accept.”
“Be careful dear.”
“I will” Shade said. She had discreetly traced where he was seated. As she tasted the jollof rice they had been served, she stole a glance in his direction and saw that he was staring at her. She was so taken aback, she choke don her rice. She had to cough, to clear her throat. She stole an embarrassed peek at him again and saw he was smiling. She felt like a fool. ‘This is crazy’ she thought to herself, as her heart still beat wildly. ‘Why did God create human with emotions?’ she asked herself, as she drank the water Tunbosun offered her.
“Are you okay dear?” Tunbosun asked
“Yes I am, thanks.”
“Guy power dey do you. I pity you o!”
“Leave me jo!”
Tunbosun laughed at her friend. “You’ll get over it” she said and slapped her friend at the back, still laughing.
Shade shook her head, managing a smile, yet wondering how she would face Utibe afterwards, she had just embarrassed herslf. ‘I’ll avoid him. I won’t even talk to him again’ she thought to herself but as she was thinking it she knew it wasn’t possible. She was dying for him to come looking for her. She hoped it won’t be too long before he did.

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 3)

Fatima was getting impatient. Mr. Aminu was taking too long. She had planned on talking with Uche immediately after the session but her school’s accompanying staff, Mr Aminu had come to call immediately after the session. Every school was asked to come with a staff; Fatima had thought it was a good idea, but now, she wished he wasn’t here.
“Sir, lunch will almost be over” she said, hoping he would get the cue.
“I told George to get your food for you.” He said and continued. He had been preparing her for the talent hunt that was a part of the conference and had been told screening would start that night. He felt he needed to give her a little more coaching but Fatima felt she was prepared enough. Howbeit, she gave him her audience, he was a man she respected; he had helped her in developing her talent. She was determined to make him proud.
“Do you now know your lines by heart?”
“Yes I do. Should I do the two for you now?” Each student participating in talent hunt had been told to prepare two pieces of their work.
“I would be pleased.”
Fatima acted out her lines. She was into one-man drama. She went through the two scripts beautifully and Mr. Aminu was impressed. “I’m proud of you dear”
“Thank you sir. I’m glad you are” She said sincerely, but when it seemed he wanted to say something else, she had to do something fast. “I’m hungry sir. Please can I go now?”
“Please do. I’m sorry for delaying you”
“Thank you sir.” She said and hurried out of the hall, hoping against hope that Uche would still be in the dinning hall. When she got there, he was not there. She was deflated. Then, she saw George and walked towards him. She thanked him for keeping her food and opened the covered plate. The sight and aroma were a momentary pleasure. She enjoyed every bit of the food. She was about to scrape her plate when she remembered George was beside her. He smiled when she looked up at him and she grunted. “Scarping this plate would have been a pleasure but because of you o!”
George smiled. “When will you learn to be a lady?”
She hit him on his chest. “Someday maybe. Thanks again for keeping my food”
“My pleasure.” After a short pause, he added. “You heard the announcement, right?”
“Which of them, George?”
“The one that Sports competition preliminaries will start immediately.”
“Yes, I did. Are you thinking of playing basket ball?”
George smiled, defeated. Fatima couldn’t help laughing. “I thought you promised to be serious throughout. You categorically told me in school that you wouldn’t play basket ball, no matter how tempted you got.”
“I plead guilty. You know it’s not a game I can stay away from too long.” Fatima agreed and chose not to tease him any further. He was the best player in their school, Comprehensive College, Kaduna. He even won the Most Valuale Player award in the just concluded All State Sports’ Competition in Kaduna.
“I’m glad you changed your mind.” Fatima said, with a smile. “I knew you would give in and I’m happy you eventually have”
George was obviously delighted to hear that. “Would you come to the basket ball court?”
“Where else would I be” she said and tapped him on the shoulder.
“Thanks, Fatima” he said. “I don’t know what I would have been of me without you”
Fatima raised a hand. “Hey! Don’t go there. God used me. Give the credit to Him, okay?”
George just smiled and nodded. He remembered it just as if it was yesterday. He had been asked to repeat SS2, that’s when he became Fatima’s classmate. He had been so devastated by the demotion that he became depressed. Fatima had walked up to him one day with her charming smile, made him laugh, and in the process, introduced Jesus to him. That was the turning point in George’s life. He began to live life again with the joy and strength he received from God.
Fatima didn’t leave him at that, but prodded him into getting involved in fellowship, helped him with balancing his academics with his penchant for basket ball, and thought him the power of true friendship. He owed so much to Fatima. She was a giver and never ceased to sacrifice her personal comfort to make others happy.
“I’m grateful to God” George said, “and I’m also grateful to you for making yourself available to Him”
“You’re welcome”, she said.
“Are you through?”
“Yes I am.” Fatima said and rose from the table, leaving her plate behind. Provision had been made for cleaning up dishes and the students were asked not to bother about it. Fatima looked back at the table, with dirty plates on it, hers included. “I feel somehow leaving my plates for those women to wash”
“I felt the same way when I finished eating too, but I guess there’s nothing that can be done about that”
Fatima didn’t agree that nothing could be one about it but decided to let it be. George stood up and joined her. The height contrast was staggering. Their friends at school had always marveled at their friendship. He was a tall basket ball player and she was a short dramatist – a weird combination.
“Remember that dream I told you had before we came here?” Fatima said, facing George as they walked out of the hall.
“Yes. The one of you rescuing someone from drowning” George said, then added, “Like you did me”
Fatima ignored the latter comment. “Yes. That dream. I think I understand what God was trying to tell me.”
“That’s cool.”
“There’s this guy I met today…” Fatima started but stopped when she saw George’s expression.
“What?” George asked, trying to suppress his laughter.
“Oh! Be serious for once, George.”
“Okay!” he managed to say, unable to wipe the smile off his face.
“I think He needs God. That might be the major reason God brought me here.” George became a little more serious as he saw she meant every word. He had come to know Fatima meant business when it came to claiming a soul for Christ.
“Please pray along with me that I would do God’s will and not mess up.”
“I will” George said, as another smile curved his lips again.
“What is it again?” Fatima said, looking at her friend.
“Is he handsome?” George said, and was on his heels immediately, laughing because he knew Fatima would have his head if she caught him. Anybody seeing the sight would have laughed. A petite girl chasing a tall lanky boy. Such was the platonic friendship Fatima and George shared, which many envied because it was pure and true, a friendship only God-seekers could enjoy.
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Uche self-esteem had just crash landed again. ‘I knew it was too good to be true. She probably thought again and knew she couldn’t stick with my kind of person. I wonder why I even hoped she would join me’. He had been so disappointed when he left the dinning hall without seeing Fatima. He had gone to the hostel to change into his sports wear, and decided to go back to the dinning hall, just incase he would meet Fatima.
As he turned the bend leading to the dinning hall, he saw a small girl chasing a much taller guy. He had smiled at first, it was a funny sight until he looked well and noticed it was the same girl he was hoping to see. It was Fatima. He saw that smile on her face as she was chasing the guy; he couldn’t mistake that smile anywhere. It was that smile that had made him open p in the first place.
As he watched them, he couldn’t help the feelings that surfaced. Another boy would have felt jealousy, Uche felt sorrow. Jealousy belonged to those who felt they deserved something and another was having it, Sorrow belonged to those who hoped to have something they felt they didn’t deserve and now, it was slipping away from them.
Uche wondered why he felt so much pain. ‘It’s your fault’, he scolded himself. ‘You shouldn’t have taking that girl serious. No one would ever like you. Don’t even bother’. With a heavy heart, he walked to the Sports arena and found a seat near the basket ball court, sat down and brought out his pocket dictionary; learning new words was his hobby. He wished he hadn’t come; he wondered how he would survive the remaining nine days.
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“Tunbosun, please hurry up”
“What’s the hurry Shade?”
“Nothing. I just don’t want us to be the last to leave the room. Seems almost all the girls have left the hostel.”
Tunbosun knew there was more to this impatience than Shade was ready to disclose. “Okay. Give me a minute to wear my snickers.”
“Okay” Shade said and went to box. She pulled something out that caught Tunbosun’s attention.
“Don’t tell me…”
“Oh yeah. I brought my phone.”
“Didn’t they tell you guys in your school phone weren’t allowed?”
“They did. What’s the matter. It’s no big deal.”
“Oh yes, it’s a big deal. It’s wrong.”
“Oh! I didn’t know you were born-again.” Shade said, sarcastically.
“I never said I was but I believe in doing what is right. I don’t go to church, so it’s not about that but I don’t do anything I’m asked not to.”
“Good for you. I go to church, I’m born-again and I also know rules are made to be broken”
“But you’re supposed to be a leader. Would you tell that to your juniors?”
“Hey! Don’t go there. See, let’s drop the matter and go for sports” she said as she returned the phone and locked the box.
Tunbosun wasn’t ready to let go just like that but she hated arguments and decided to let it pass. She wondered if she would be able to stick such a bunkmate for the remaining nine days. She disliked people who flouted orders.

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 4)

It was common place for the big boys to show a little of their boxers whenever they had the opportunity to, and Stanley did not spare at all; he showed a lot. “Oh boy! I wonder how good guys from other schools are” he said.
“We’ll soon discover” Okpara responded.
“I’ll be playing football, I’m not in basket ball like you guys” Utibe said, the last of the trio said.
“You dey miss. Na b-ball dey trip the girls. You wear your sleeveless jersey, flexing your muscles and your height. Without them saying anything, you can see they are tripping already” Stanley said.
“It’s the small girls that are tripped my football stars. “ Okpara chipped in.
“Na you sabi o! I enjoy playing football. That’s what matters to me, not really the tripping of girls’ part.”
Stanley laughed. “You will soon change your mind when you see the girls flocking around Okpara and me in no time.” He paused and then added deliberately. “And, you know what?”
“What?” his friends chorused.
“I will get in between at least five of those girls’ laps before the end of this conference.” Stanley said confidently, with a grin.
“Stanley; you’re my man!” Okpara exulted.
“How will you do that in this place? They’ll catch you” Utibe said, rather dubious.
“You be small boy o!” Stanley said, mocking his new friend. “We have our ways. My brother was here last year and told me how the boys did it. I must do my own; no dulling at all”
“Who will you start with?” Okpara asked as they approached the basket ball court.
“I’ll start with that Tunbosun girl that you told me about” Stanley said, facing Okpara, and could see Okpara was pleased.
“That girl so humiliated me in school. I felt like a fool among my friends. I’d bragged that I could have any girl. They tested me with Tunbosun and she had me good. I hope you won’t be humiliated too.”
Stanley scoffed. “I won’t blow my trumpet anymore. Actions speak louder than words. You just watch me.”
Stanley and Okpara stopped at the court to watch guys that had already started making shots. Utibe turned, heading towards the football pitch. He wondered if that was the kind of life he wanted; using and dumping girls. He had always had close female friends but never asked for more than friendship but the moment he got here and heard what the boys were bragging about, he had felt a need to feel among.
That’s why he had talked to Shade at the dinning hall earlier in the day. A boy had dared him to do it, and he wasn’t ready to be called a slacker. He wondered how far he would have to go to win the approval of the guys around. He looked forward and saw boys joggling soccer balls. He momentarily discarded the thoughts and jogged towards the field.
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‘Wow, this guy is good.’ Uche thought to himself. He had been sitting near the basket ball court for minutes. Boys soon came and started playing. He watched them and was fascinated at the fun they were having. He wasn’t a sports person, but admired those who found pleasure in whatever they were doing, as he found pleasure in reading.
He recognized one of the players as the boy Fatima was chasing a few minutes ago. The boy was good, hadly missed a shot. Uche wondered why Fatima was nowhere near to cheer her friend. He turned to see if she was anywhere near, but didn’t have to look too long. She was standing right behind him. He was so taken aback, he couldn’t speak.
“Looking for somebody?” she asked rhetorically , which her trademark smile. “I see you’re enjoying the game, didn’t know you were a fan.”
“No, I’m not”, he was saying when she came around the seat.
“May I?” she asked, motioning towards the seat.
“Sure” he said, as she sat beside him. He ask her why she hadn’t made it to the dinning in time as agredd but decided against it. He didn’t want to start up the conversation. If she wanted to talk, she would have to be the one to start.
And as if Fatima heard him, she turned slightly to face him. “I’m sorry for not making it a few minutes back”
“It’s okay” Uche said, plainly, not looking at her.
Fatima seemed to take the cue and kept quiet. There was silence between them for a while which made Uche feel uneasy. He pretended to be watching the game but his mind was searching for a way to ensure they continued from where they stopped at the lecture hall. He looked at her for the first time since she sat and saw she was lost, watching the game.
It was then something caught his attention. She had long hair. ‘How come I didn’t notice earlier?’ he asked himself, knowing he was fond of females with long hair. It was then he remembered that she had been wearing her beret earlier, as it was part of her school uniform. They were asked to wear their school uniform during lecture sessions.
His sister had the longest hair he had ever seen, and he took pride in it while he could until he lost her; a loss he was still yet to recover from. He noticed he was staring at her and he called himself to order. Looking back at the boys playing, he asked, “You like basket ball?”
“Since I was a kid. My brothers are all basketball players.”
“Really?” Uche asked, genuinely surprised.
There was a short silence. “I thought you were going to ask me a question” she said, smiling.
“You must be a mind reader. Why not just answer the question since you already know it” Uche said, now warming up to the conversation.
“My brothers are not short like me. Two of them are of average height, and one is as tall as George”
“George?” Uche asked, confused.
“Oh sorry, I just assumed I was talking to someone who knew him. He’s the guy with a Lakers jersey,” she said pointing in his direction. “He’s my closest male friend in school. He’s like a big brother to me.”
“Hmmm” Uche said, and was surprised at the ease he felt, knowing there was nothing extra between Fatima and the George guy. “He’s very good. His style of play is nice.”
“Yes. He plays like Coby Bryant.” Uche made a face that reminded Fatima he wasn’t a basketball fan. “My bad. I’m sorry. Coby is an NBA star. George copies his moves.”
“I see” Uche stole a glance at Fatima hair again and was about to comment but thought it would be forward of him. So, he decided to keep mute, but not before Fatima saw his expression.
“You want to say something?” she asked.
“No” he lied.
Fatima frowned. “If there’s anything I hope you’ll get to know about me, it’s that you do not lie to Fatima” She raised an eyebrow and tapped her finger. “So, out with it, Mister!”
Uche smiled. “Wanted to say I like you hair!” he said, barely above a whisper. Uche felt very silly after saying it, especially because Fatima just smiled at him without a word. ‘I wonder what she thinks of me now’ he thought.’
Without taking her eyes off him, Fatima responded. “Thank you Uche. That’s the nicest thing anybody has said to me since I got here yesterday. Thanks”
“You’re welcome” he said, breathing easier now. This was his first time having a quite lengthy conversation with a girl that didn’t have to do with library books or assignments, and it felt quite good.
“You’ll make a great husband and dad in the future” Fatima said.
‘Where did that come from’ Uche thought. ‘She couldn’t have been referring to me. I would make the worst husband and father; that’s why I cannot even marry’. He however felt he needed to respond to the compliment. “Thanks” he said.
Fatima could read in his response that he didn’t believe what she said and she could only link it to what he had refused to talk about earlier in the day. “Please tell me!” Fatima said.
Uche was confused. “Tell you what?” The girl just never stopped to amaze him. He wondered where she was going with this again.
“What you didn’t want to talk about this morning. Why you haven’t been able to laugh in a while” she paused, looked at him and added, “Why you think you would be a terrible husband and father.”
Uche’s eyes filled immediately. She had hit his softest spot so acutely. He blinked back the tears but not fast enough. A tear made its way down his cheek.
“Please let it out; tell me”
Fatima’s voice carried so much concern, Uche nearly choked on the tears screaming for release. All he could do was nod his head. He would tell Fatima what he had never told anyone for the past three years.
-------------------------------
“Goal!!!” Shade shouted at the top of her voice, sincerely excited. Utibe’s team had just scored. Spectators had chosen sides and she had been the most ardent supporter of Utibe’s team of six.
When they got to the Sports arena, she had begged Tunbosun to take a stroll round the arena with her, claiming she just wanted to have a feel of all games played. The moment Shade spotted Utibe playing football, she had told Tunbosun she didn’t want to stroll anymore, that she felt like watching football.
Tunbosun, who had known what her bunk mate was up to all the while, refused to comment. She left her there and continued the stroll, hoping her friend wouldn’t do anything stupid.
Shade however had infact overdone her support. Utibe had noticed her a while ago and made her aware he had noticed her, looking at her every now and then. With the goal his team just scored, he looked at her and winked. She screamed the more!
A few minutes after, the whistle was blown. Sports time was over. Utibe talked briefly with his new friends, his team mates, and then walked straight up to Shade.
“Thanks for the support”
“My pleasure. You guys were good” she said, as they started heading towards the hostel.
“I have to agree with you, I enjoyed the game myself”. With Shade so close, he remembered what he and his friends had been discussing on their way to the sports arena. He decided to give it a try. He stopped walking and stared at her a little.
Shade wondered what was wrong. “What?” she asked.
“You look beautiful” he said, not taking his eyes off her.
“Thank you” Shade say, flushed. She couldn’t hold his gaze. She was going to faint if she did.
Utibe could see Shade had already tripped. ‘I didn’t know it was going to be this easy’, he though to himself. ‘I’ll have to ask the guys what next I need to do. I might just be lucky with Shade. She doesn’t look like someone who will tell me no’. The more he thought about it, the more excited he got.

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 5)

The moment Tunbosun left Shade, she had found a solitary spot. She wasn’t interested in talking to anybody or watching any game. She also needed time to be alone. She had always heard that there are some things money cannot buy. Now, experience had taught her that. Her dad, a Senator, had being diagnosed of cancer of the liver just a month back.
She had always told him she hated his smoking habit, but he had always said there was nothing he could do about it. Now, he had landed himself in an incurable disease. No day passed that she didn’t dread what would become of her if her father was to die. She was almost changing her mind lately about continuing in the medical career’ but her father diagnosis revived her desire to further the cause of ensuring health for many.
She had been so consumed in her thoughts she hardly heard when the whistle went.
“Hey pretty!” Tunbosun was distracted from her thoughts as she saw an image walk in her direction. ‘Not this guy again’ she thought to herself.
“What are you doing here all alone? The whistle has gone.”
“Really?” she asked, looking round and feeling stupid. “Oh! Thanks” she said, standing from the stump of the tree she was sitting on.
“You didn’t watch any game. You missed!” Tunbosun kept walking without responding. “Why are you refusing to talk with me, Tunbosun?” Stanley asked, calling her name with his Igbo accent.
“There’s nothing we have to talk about.” Tunbosun said, and then stopped to face him. “See I know your type, okay? I’m a wrong target! Please, as you could see, I was alone, and won’t mind walking alone to the hostel.” She said, and walked away.
Stanley was too embarrassed to try again. He decided to let her go. He had to think of a way to get her. She was pretty but he didn’t like her; she was too proud and sure of herself. ‘Tunbosun, I’ll surely get you, and when I’m done with you, you’ll be worse than a piece of rag’, he thought to himself.
--------------------------------
Uche lay on his bed, waiting for the whistle to sound for dinner. He felt so relieved. He had a time of his life with Fatima. She had listened to carefully to everything he said. He had never thought he would it.
He remembered the look on Fatima’s face when he told her what happened to him three years back. He was very close to his only sister; they were just two. Their parents usually came home late from work. She was basically all he had, and he loved her. They played together, read together, and ate together; they were inseparable. She had long hair, and he made it a hobby, plaiting her hair.
However, when he became a teenager, they started having quarrels. He would insist on watching a sports channel when she wanted to watch a Nollywood film, he would shout at her for giving him small meat, not taking the time to see that hers was even smaller. He made her cry at different times, and would later apologise. They were still close but not as before, and the teenage hormones in Uche didn’t make him care.
Then, someday, they had another quarrel, the worst ever. She had scolded him for coming home late. She had wanted to go to the market but had been waiting for him. He insulted her in many words, telling her she wasn’t his mother and would never be. And as she was about leaving the house for the market, he said words he’d never forget. “Ada, I hate you; don’t even come back home!”
As he said it, he had regretted it, and worse was he saw her eyes were already filling. He had wanted to apologize but his male ego restrained him. After a few minutes, he became sober and longed for her to return so he could apologise to her. He hated hurting her but wondered why he kept doing so.
He waited an hour but she didn’t come back. Two hours. Three hours. He became worried. He was going to go out and look for her when a neighbour brought him the news the changed his life. Ada was dead. The Okada she was on had been hit by a vehicle and both she and the rider died on the spot.
He had become numb immediately, unable to respond past a nod. The neighbour tried to comfort him but he asked her to leave. He shot the door behind her, sat on the floor and just stared blankly. He remembered his last words to his sister and he wasn’t to scream, cut himself, cry, or just die but he did not but stare. And that was the beginning on his solitary, depressed and insecure life. He never wept for his sister until the moment he had opened up to Fatima.
He shed tears, there in public. It was his first time truly mourning his sister who had died three years ago. He had blamed himself with every passing day for her death and felt he didn’t deserve to be happy for the rest of his life. He still felt the guilt and was still angry with himself but he felt much lighter, now that he had offloaded the weight and shared it with somebody.
She just listened to him, and didn’t have time to respond because the whistle went shortly after he finished his story. She told him she had a secret to share with him too, something he needed to hear. That was what was on Uche’s mind now. He wanted to hear what Fatima had to say. ‘Does she have a secret similar to mine or is hers even worse?’ They had agreed to talk during dinner. Uche looked at his wristwatch. ‘The whistle would be blown anytime soon.’ He thought to himself as he sat up, looking forward to see Fatima again.
------------------------------------------------
“You should have seen him, he’s so skillful.” Shade was saying to Tunbosun who was clearly uninterested in her conversation.
The whistle sounded. “It’s time for dinner.” Tunbosun said as she made ready to leave the room, hoping Shade would stop her tales at least for a while. She had known the girl would fall for the Utibe guy when she saw her na├»ve reaction to the guy during lunch. She had seen girls hurt before and hoped Shade wouldn’t add to the number. She hoped the girl would soon come to her sense, because as at now, she wouldn’t listen to anybody’s advice.
“Um, Tunbosun” Shade called
“Yes”
“I would be sitting with Utibe at dinner today”
“Okay” Tunbosun said, happy she won’t be bugged by Shade’s stories but still bothered for the girl. “So, we meet at the lecture hall?” Shade made a face and Tunbosun understood clearly. “Oh sorry, I forgot; it’s an all night conversation. We’ll see in the hostel then, after tonight’s Talent Hunt screening.”
“Mmhmm” Shade said smiling.
They both walked out of the room and the only thought on Tunbosun’s mind was ‘Why do girls fall so easily for boys, can’t they just sit down and think a little? Can’t they see all boys are flirts?’
----------------------------------------------
“Oh boy! I dey lucky o! That girl don trip already. Wetin I go do now?” Utibe was asking his friends as they sat down at a table in dinning hall.
“Na small small you go start?” Stanley replied.
“How?” Utibe asked, genuinely interested.
Stanley smiled and slapped him on the back. “JJC!”. He faced Okpara. “Abi, you too be JJC?” Okpara shook his head. “Then, tell him how he’ll do it”
“You’ll start by looking for an opportunity to touch her. When, she comes, shake her hand and hold it a little longer. Then, when she sits and you talk, while laughing or expressing yourself, keep touching her hand or shoulder. Then, possibly when in the lecture, try to get a seat behind, then put your hand across her chair, then eventually on her shoulders. Abi?” Okpara asked, facing Stanley.
“Yes. Try not to exceed the shoulders part today. If you do, she’ll know what you want but hands on the shoulders could be interpreted as a friendly gesture. See how she responds to it. If she’s okay with it then, tomorrow we’ll progress to the more intimate body parts.”
Utibe nodded, taking in all the instructions. “What about you, how far with Tunbosun?”
“That girl is one hard nut to crack. But now, I don’t even want to crack her, that would be too dignified for her”
“So, you want to leave her?” Okpara asked, disappointed.
“No, never. She’s humiliated me. I want to crush her. leave her wounded; unable to ever lift her head again. Make her wish she was never a female.”
“Hey! I don’t like the way you’re sounding. Don’t hurt that girl” It was Utibe voicing out now.
“You leave that to me and mind your own business with…” Stanley hushed when he saw Shade walk in their direction. “Remember the process!” he hissed into Utibe’s ears as he and Okpara moved to another table.
Utibe couldn’t help noticing that Shade wore a dress that brought out her full shape and she had added a little twist to her walking. ‘All for me?’ he thought. ‘This would definitely be a great night’.

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 6)

Fatima was the last person to leave her room. She had felt a need to take some time out to pray for Uche before speaking with him during dinner. The moment she got back from the Sports arena, she had had a quick shower and then taken taken time to pray for Uche. She had thanked for the privilege He was giving her to touch another life and asked that He would help her to be a true witness and not mess things up.
When she had felt satisfied, she rose up. Thankfully, the hostel gate had not been closed. As she was walking out of the hostel, she remembered she had a performance that night, so she prayed in her heart, asking God to help her. and she knew he would. Now, she had a mission to accomplish for God.
----------------------------
Table Ten had just been called to come for food. It was almost time for Table Eleven; the table Uche was seated on. He had reserved a seat beside him for Fatima but she was nowhere to be found. He had thought they shared the same enthusiasm and that she would want to come early to continue their discussion. But now, about fifteen minutes had passed, and she hadn’t come. ‘Maybe she has thought well about what I did and has condemned me too. I knew she won’t understand. Why did I tell her?’ Uche thought to himself, going down the tunnel of depression again. He put his head on the table, waiting for his table to be called.
“Are you sleeping?” came the voice he had come to cherish. Uche looked up and saw Fatima smiling at him. His heart beat a little faster. She was just so sweet. “Sorry I’m late”
“It’s okay” Uche said, sincerely relieved his fears didn’t materialize. “I thought you weren’t going to come again”
“I’m so sorry, had to settle some things first”
“Please sit” he said just as he heard his table being called. “Let’s get our food first”
“Ok then”, she replied and they went to the serving point.
The meal was beans and plantain. Some students were delighted to eat it, some were not. Uche was among the former, while Fatima, latter.
“This is my favourite food?” Uche said, after taking the first spoon.
“Really?” Fatima said, giving him a disgusted look. “It looks like a baby’s faeces!”
“Hey! I’m eating” someone from across the table said.
“So sorry!” Fatima said, laughing and Uche joined in too.
“May be if you liked it, you would have been taller than this” Uche said, teasing her.
“Thanks!” she said, making a face. “I’m okay like this. You’re the one who’s too tall”
“I hear you; please let me eat my beans o!” Uche responded, smiling. They ate in silence for quite a while. “Thanks for this afternoon”
“You’re welcome.”
“You said you have something to tell me, right?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Guess it’s my turn to listen” Uche said, smiling. He was getting use to smiling often now, thanks to his new friend.
“I guess so.” She said, and dropped her curtlery. “A minute please” Fatima started looking through her bag, and it took a little while.
“What are you looking for?” Uche asked, wondering.
“I don’t know where I kept it…Oh there you are!” she said, bringing out two wraps of sweet.
“Sweet?” Uche was yet to understand. “Why the urgency and seriousness in looking for it?”
“Like I said earlier, beans and I are not friends. I dislike the smell that comes out of the mouth after eating beans” she said, winking at him as she threw one to him and started opening hers.
“You’re something, Fatima!”
“Thanks. I take that as a compliment.” When she was sure her breath was okay, she started. “It’s about my father and mother. Since I knew myself, they have been at logger heads with each other. There were times when I was in primary and in my Junior school days when I would cry everynight when I got home.
“Daddy used mummy as a punching bag, and she didn’t make things any better. The kind of abuses she used on him, I wouldn’t even dare to use on an animal. I lived everyday so gloomy, dull and depressed. If you had seen me in those days, you would have run away from me. It was a terrible situation.”
“How did they change?”
Fatima smiled. “They haven’t changed. They are still one of my greatest concerns.”
“So?” Uche asked.
“I changed.”
“Interesting. How did that happen?”
“I met a guy that brought me joy even in my pain” Fatima’s face brightened as she said that but Uche didn’t share her glaee. He could only think of the lanky boy he saw Fatima chasing earlier that day. ‘Is this what you wanted to tell me; how that lanky boy brought you happiness?’ Uche was about to tell her he wasn’t interested when she mentioned a name.
“I met Jesus” she said, “and he turned my own life around. He’s the secret of my joy and cheerfulness. He healed my hurts, helped me to forgive my parents and to forgive myself”
“You had no reason to forgive yourself. You did nothing wrong”
“I had to” Fatima said. I’m the only child and sometimes my father quarreled with my mother about her inability to bear more children. He wanted boys but she said it would be risky. I am a sickler and the probability was high that any other children they had would be sicklers. So, I was angry at myself for years that I was cause of their fights.”
Uche nodded, knowing how much guilt that would have brought her.
“But I listened to Pastor Bimbo Odukoya when I was on vacation at my cousin’s in Lagos. I was just flipping through the TV on a Sunday. Then, I was a muslim and was home while they went to church. It was her looks that attracted me; she was beautiful and dress smart, plus she’s short like me” Fatima laughed, and so did Uche.
“She talked about forgiveness that day, and the message just seemed for me. I couldn’t change the channel but listen through. At the end, she said the only key to forgiving others was first, receiving forgiveness form God, then forgiving one’s self. I didn’t need further persuasion. I gave my life to Jesus Christ that day, in that sitting room at Lagos, saying the sinner’s prayer after Pastor Bimbo.
“Thereafter, I felt so much peace in my heart. I forgave myself and forgave my parents. It was a choice I made and God helped me. In conclusion, she said, anyone who wanted to live to the fullest had to chose to be happy; that happiness was a choice; not a matter of circumstances. That day, I chose to be happy and God has been helping me.
“When my cousins came back, they had to ask me what happened. I was smiling. That was strange for me in those days. I spent two more weeks in Lagos and listened more to Pastor Bimbo and my cousins were also of great help.”
“What did your parents say when you got back?”
“Nothing. Till today, they haven’t said a word. Frankly, I think it’s because I have not given them a reason to complain. They can see positive changes in me, and though they are not saying it, I’m sure they are proud of me. Moreover, since when I accepted Christ, I haven’t had a crisis; not once. I have lived in great health”
“That is remarkable. How many years ago was this?”
“Would be four years tomorrow”
“Really?”
“Really.”
“Haven’t there been times you would want feel depressed again?”
“There have been such times” Fatima said, “but God had always strengthened me through. He’s my best friend.”
There was silence between them for a while as Fatima allowed God do His work in Uche’s life. When she felt she needed to voice out, she asked him. “Would you want the same to happen to you?”
“Yes, I would”
“Would you received Jesus into your heart now?”
Uche paused. “I’m not ready for that yet. I really want this joy you have but I’m not ready to accept Jesus yet.”
“Why?” Fatima asked, hoping he would change his mind.
“I don’t know” he lied, hoping she wouldn’t press and she didn’t.
“It’s okay. But I hope you would give it a thought?” Fatima asked and Uche nodded. Fatima noticed almost everybody was out of the dinning hall and their plates littered the tables as it had been at lunch. She had felt a need to do something then, and now, she knew what she would do. Even if she wasn’t going to wash, she would clear up the plates and clean the tables.
“Are you ready to go?” she asked Uche.
“Yes”.
“I would meet you in the hall” she said “I have some work to do.”
“What?”
“Clearing up the dishes!”
“You cannot be serious!” Uche said, but as he stood there, she started with their table. There was just something so different about her. ‘This Jesus she has must be worth it’. Uche shook his head, smiling at his new friend as he joined her, picking up the plates.

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 7)

“Where have you been? I was so worried about you” George said, standing at one of the entrance doors to the lecture hall.
“We were clearing the plates” Fatima said, smiling.
“You’re impossible” George said, shking his head at his friend, then giving her a questioning look as he looked at the boy beside her and back to her.
“Oh sorry, bad manners. This is Uche, my new friend” she said looking at Uche, and then introduced Goerge. “And this is George, my closest male friend.
“A pleasure meeting you” George said, extending his hand for a handshake.
“Same here” Uche said, taking his hand.
“But why are you outside?” Fatima asked. “I can see the show has program has started.”
“I didn’t like some of the things I was hearing and seeing, I had to leave. Moreover, I was worried about you. Guess it’ll soon…”
An announcement interrupted him. “Next on the list is Banke. Fatima please get ready!!!”
“Right on time!” Fatima said, giggling. “Let’s go in”
“Not before we say a prayer for you” George said.
“Thanks George. That would be great.” Fatima said as she took Goerge’s hand in one hand and Uche’s in the other. Geoge also took Uche’s free, forming a chain. Uche was new to this but didn’t object. George said a short prayer and then they were on their way in. There was just something about the joy, unity and peace Fatima and George enjoyed that Uche could not wait to enjoy the same. Uche had planned to ask Fatima to lead him in the sinner’s prayer after the program but he remembered she said she would be meeting with Mr. Aminu after the program.
‘I will ask her to lead me to Jesus in prayer tomorrow morning.’ That was Uche’s thought. Little did he know that he was going to get a shocker of his life the next day.
---------------------------------------
Stanley was uncomfortable. He was unsettled, he felt unfulfilled. The day was about to end and he hadn’t gotten any girl yet. ‘Where is that Tunbosun girl?’ he asked himself as he looked round. He couldn’t find her. Moreover, boys and girls were hooting and some of them were standing to watch the girl that was miming a Janet Jackson song.
As he was about giving up, he noticed a girl was walking towards the back. She wore a short black gown. Stanley couldn’t take his eyes off her body. Looking at his face, he was surprised. It was Tunbosun. ‘How on earth!’ He couldn’t believe that the same girl who had shunned him would wear such a sensuous dress. He was dazed.
She passed by him and he called her. She looked at him, took her eyes away an continued walking. He kept his eyes on her till she entered the ladies. Her dressing had just provoked him more to do what he had been planning.
With her dressing, he was convinced she was just proving hard to get. ‘I don’t have all ten days to woe you girl. I will have you by force.’ He remembered what his brother told him had happened at the last conference. A girl that had proved hard to get had been raped at the uncompleted lecture hall behind the dinning hall. The shame had been too much for her, she didn’t tell the conference facilitators.
The thought appealed to Stanley. As he was still thinking, Tunbosun walked past again, returning to her seat. Stanley fed his eyes on her. ‘I’ll have you tomorrow.’
---------------------------------
Tunbosun got back to her seat. She hated to stand up in the clothes she was wearing but he had been pressed and to go. As she sat down, she pulled her gown trying to reduce the flesh it showed; it was too short and she felt very uncomfortable. She was trendy and wore outfits that were in vogue. But she disliked wearing revealing clothes.
When she was leaving home, her mum had convinced her to take the black gown. It was one of her new purchases from Dubai. Unfortunately, Tunbosun didn’t try it on, assuming it would be okay. When she tried it on in the hostel, she had wanted to change it but the hoots, screams and encouragement from girls in the room made her wear it out.
Now, she felt so stupid she wore it. She couldn’t wait for the program to be over and put off the dress she was wearing. Worst of all was that she had allowed that guy to see her this way. She wondered what he would be thinking of her. ‘I promise never to wear this again, ever!’ she told herself, still trying to pull the gown a little more, unaware that she had already set herself up; unaware of Stanley’s schemes.
---------------------------------
Shade was seated with Utibe and they were engrossed in the activities on stage. For a few minutes, she had been trying to remember the name of the girl that was miming. She was the girl she had seen earlier in the day. She still couldn’t place it.
“Do you know that girl?” She asked Utibe whose hand across her chair.
“Sure. She’s Faith Archibong”
“It’s a lie!” Shade was surprised. “Now, I remember. She was in Federal Government Girls College, Ipetumodu.”
“Really? She’s now in my school; The Rock Academy.”
“Where’s that?”
“In Calabar.”
“That’s strange. She has really changed” Shade said, looking at Faith on the stage and she did some sensual dance steps, causing students to hoot. Just then, Shade noticed Utibe hand slide forward and rest on her shoulder, but she pretended not to notice.
“Why did you say she has changed?” Utibe asked, moving closer.
“She was a strong Christian when I knew her; she even preached to me once”
“Faith! That seems impossible. I cannot think of a big boy in Calabar that hasn’t had her.”
Shade looked at him, questioning.
“Oh no! I haven’t” he said, taking his hand away from her shoulder. He raised his two hands. “I’m innocent. I only go with good girls, like you”, he said looking deliberately at her.
Shade was glad to hear that and wished Utibe hadn’t removed his hand, she was getting comfortable with it. And as if he could read her mind, he put his hand back on her shoulder and felt her relax under his touch.
Shade continued watching Faith perform while Utibe’s attention was on her. Things were going as planned. Utibe wanted to explore further. Shade had just been too easy. He remembered his friends’ words and decided to go slow.
‘This is better than I planned. I can’t wait for tomorrow to proceed to the more interesting parts’ Utibe thought to himself as he yet moved a little closer and noticed Shade inclined closer too.
-----------------------------------
“Now, let’s put our hands together for Fatima!” the moderator said.
As Fatima mounted the podium and the sound track she had chosen was played, Cece Winan’s ‘Alasbaxter box’, a new wave swept through the hall. As she started her one-man drama, the atmosphere was even more charged.
George, sitting with Uche was excited. Fatima was ministering through her drama and seeds of righteousness where beeen sown. Georege looked round, many students were talking, some distracted, but some were listening, being touched by her message. Her drama was titled, ‘When love prevails’.
It was the story of a girl who was down and out but she met Jesus and received His love and her life changed. George looked back and noticed a girl was wiping her tears. He made a mental note to talk with her later. He looked back at Fatima on the stage and just then, he felt God drop a burden in His heart.
Fatima needed his prayers. Something terrible was about to happen to her. He didn’t know what it was but felt God was asking Him to pray for this girl that had brought joy to his life; this girl that had introduced Jesus to him. ‘Lord, please have mercy on Fatima. Let nothing evil happen to her” he pleaded desperately with God.


…TO BE CONTINUED NEXT EDITION. (Please remember to subscribe if you haven’t, so you could receive the next edition. Only subscribers would be receiving editions on a regular basis. Don’t forget either that subscription for this magazine is free. All it costs you is browsing time, a text or a postage stamp!!! See ‘Free Subscription’ for details.)

“I could do this too; I love writing stories”. If that’s you; a teenage fiction writer, please send an e-mail to us at justaboutmine@yahoo.com with your details and attach your story. If your story is chosen to be published, you’ll be informed and we’ll work together on editing your story - the next Novella. This is your opportunity to become a published author.

Written by Timilehin Adigun

Shout Outs...Happy Birthday!!!

Folashade Ogundele April 1st
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Damilola Ogunkanmi April 4th
Micah Monday Akpan April 5th
Queen Nkiru Ejimbe April 5th
Folakemi Awofala April 6th
Ubong Godwin Okposin April 6th
Kufre Emmanuel Okon April 7th
Abiodun Sunday Olu April 7th
Temitope Moradeke Adeniyi April 8th
Dinma Emelumadu April 8th
Okeremute Lydia Ojarikre April 9th
Folarin Oladipupo April 9th
Ezima Valentine Uyo April 9th
Adewumi Mabel Olasan April 9th
Bunmi Akinsete April 9th
Similoluwa Adelaja April 9th
Nyong Emmanuel Patrick April 9th
Valerie Azubike April 9th
Oluwabukunmi Soremekun April 10th
Sopuruchi Egbo April 10th
Dickson Esther Ayibaparadei April 10th
Malika Joe Sampson April 10th
Chimerem Rebecca Okorafor April 11th
Daniel Coloqual April 11th
Daniel Sabitu April 11th
Abiodun Ipaye April 12th
Olawunmi Esther Odunola April 12th
Bilqees Ajikanle April 13th
Daramola Babawale Gideon April 13th
Akan Regain April 14th
Iso Offiong Akuba April 15th
Mfon Chinyere Moses April 15th
Abimbola Isola April 16th
Samson Oladunjoye April 17th
Olasunkanmi Olanihun April 18th
Abimbola Akinwande April 18th
Blessing Archibong April 18th
Olaniyi Temitayo Afolayan April 18th
Toluwalase Alafiatayo April 19th
Ope Julianah Ogunseiju April 19th
Godswill Gift April 20th
Blessing Godswill April 20th
Florence Anthony April 20th
Utianbeshie Akomaye April 21st
Victoria Williams Eshiet April 21st
Daniel Happiness Egbe April 21st
Tolulope Awobiyi April 21st
Comfort Augustine Ibanga April 22nd
Itunu Grace Ajayi April 22nd
Ukachi Irukwu April 23rd
Temitope Clement Idowu April 23rd
Omotayo Savage April 23rd
David Adebayo Ogunsade April 24th
Elizabeth Friday Umoh April 24th
Adeniyi Lawrence Olagunju April 24th
Fatuma Abubakar April 25th
Oyelola Anu April 25th
Ekenem Emelumadu April 26th
Yemisi Adelaja April 26th
Temilade Oyin Akingboye April 26th
Adeyinka Ronke Ogundiwin April 27th
Abaketip Edet Etim April 27th
Chioma Justinah Umeibe April 27th
Oken Cecilia Richard April 28th
Mrs. Tolulope Adelaja April 29th
Babatunde Matthew Kukoyi April 30th
Moronfoluwa Adediran April 30th
Inna Mohammed May 1st
Kamila Mohammed May 1st
Deborah Ibanga Archibong May 1st
Peace Edward May 2nd
Mary Bukola Ogunbodede May 2nd
Kayode Victor Adekunle May 2nd
Bukola Adedeji May 3rd
Ekeng Edem Asuquo May 3rd
Ujong Hannah Akpama May 3rd
Oluwatosin Akanmu May 3rd
Joke Adeleke May 4th
Samuel Udo Eziukwu May 4th
Melody Ochu Samuel May 5th
Emmanuel Joseph Bolton May 6th
John Ishie Effiong May 7th
Chinyere Joy Onyemachi May 7th
Shola Abolaji Arowogbola May 8th
Olayemi Dorcas Oyekan May 8th
Esther Victor Lazarus May 8th
Oluseyi Adetutu Otegbayo May 9th
Ebele Chi Oyeka May 9th
Honesty Efiom May 10th
Timilehin Adigun May 10th
Oreoluwa Sotade May 10th
Mary Etim Inyang May 11th
Umo Eno Obong May 11th
Affiom Idim Ifon May 11th
Oluwatoni Olatunji May 12th
Latyph Agbelade May 12th
Kaka Eriaye Francis May 12th
Nicole Akabike May 12th
Clifford Osahon Enobun May 13th
Oluseun Aluko May 13th
Omobolanle Olusanya May 13th
Daniel Osmond May 13th
Ifeoluwa Oyelola May 15th
Agnes Subairu May 16th
Omotola Ayomide May 16th
Excellent Ejiogu May 17th
Bukola Akomolafe May 18th
Titilope Oladepo May 18th
David Obafemi May 19th
Yetunde AbdulAzeez May 19th
Esther Afolayan May 19th
Temilola Okegbemiro May 19th
Janet Jonah Usen May 21st
James Upoh Inah May 22nd
Tayo Fatokun May 22nd
Mr R.A Oyeniran May 23rd
Glory Inyang Okoi May 25th
Olawale Oladipo May 25th
Glory Abang Erem May 25th
Chris Ezendu May 25th
Odunayo Daniel Amuwa May 25th
Oyedapo Paul Oyeniyi May 27th
Julian Udeh May 27th
Abigail Chinyere Chukwuma May 27th
Tiwalade Dosumu May 27th
Oluwatoyitan Adigun May 28th
Seun Akanbi May 28th
Odetayo Olabunmi Bamidele May 28th
Etim Yemi Bassey May 29th
Mosope Asiwaju May 30th

It's Your Life; Write Your Own Script

Yes, yes it’s Bank PHB’s current slogan. Ehh, i borrowed it from them. After all, I am a ‘customer’ as long as I am a Nigerian, with or without an account. But this says exactly what’s on my mind. Thanks Bank PHB. This is straight talk MINE readers. And its been piercing my heart for a while, but even more, its being destroying a generation silently.

The MINE celebrity from the last edition, Samuel Fatomi was at Mrs Adigun’s (the MINE Publisher’s “still pretty at over 50” mum, by the way a grandma now) office on an official visit while I was there on an unofficial visit. He shared an experience that really got at me and inspired this article.

He shared about a teenage girl with three younger ones who were suddenly kicked out of their father’s house by no one else than their father. He just woke them up that morning and asked them to leave. Yes, its superstory gangan, except that I’m double sure this happened to one of your contemporaries. They couldn’t and still can’t figure out why till now. She told the story to Mr. Samuel and his crew when they inquired from them why they’ve being sleeping in church for a while. And her father’s been that way for some time.

Sometime earlier, her Dad would always demand for the whole of her income from a petty job she picked up to support her family. He would split it into 3 portions and hand her only a third of it to cater for herself and two siblings while he goes on a spending spree. “Can that truly be her Dad ?”,I hear you say. Yes o! Told you it’s real superstory. And her mom? She’s been off with another man now for a while since she’s divorced. “Is she so divorced that she can’t care about three kids that came out of her womb”? Mrs Adigun screamed.

And this is just one of the examples of what many teenagers are going through in this generation. And unfortunately, much of it is not their fault. Yes it’s the present day adults that are responsible for of the things teenagers are suffering. They are responsible for the WAEC exam paper and other exam papers that leak from their offices. And yes, they give us money to buy them too. Teenagers are not responsible for the new low waist jeans and other inappropriate dresses that have flooded the markets today, they are.


They are responsible for turning the cleavage, which should never be seen, into fashion accesories that complement jeweleries and clothing necklines. They are the movie and music video screen writers, producers, directors, actors, musicians that have ensured that nudity, kissing, smooching and sex are mandatory in these screen materials. Actors that act nude are even paid higher. And they have discovered technologies that make this unholy pornographic materials run after us (TV, CD’s, VCD’s, Cable TV, Ipods, MP4’s and the internet which makes them a click away, ANYWHERE). While in their time it was kilometeres away in cinemas and clubs and only available at night.

They are the lecturers and teachers and administrators who can not develop or at least, maintain the same systems, structures and institutions that produced them. Sex is cheaper and even easier to cover now because they have found ways to prevent the once inevitable result, pregnancy. Condoms and contraceptives are now available even its ever increasing failure and side effect is never emphasised. Abortion is much more affordable and readily available now. They didn’t have this many options when they were our age and so they were much more careful. One of the many reasons many of them married early.

Oh my God, the list is endless. Check out governance in Nigeria at all levels. Its almost like corruption has being institutionalised. The younger generation is not even sure what is corrupt and what is not. If we have to blame someone, I blame our parents first. We are simply a product of our society. And with this kind of society, what kind of kids do they want. Hmmm!!! By the way, you are the kid I’m talking about. With so much doom and gloom around, you are.....!!

Guess you must be rejecting that kind of future. “Is it going to be so bad?” you seem to be asking. And my answer is NO! NO!! NO!!! And that’s what I’m here to offer. IT’S YOUR LIFE; WRITE RIGHT YOUR OWN SCRIPT. More than ever before, you need to grab your destiny and live it RIGHT. Many of the things I spoke of earlier have positive sides. And there are still many good parents, good schools and even very wonderful adults that are trying to ensure that you lead a good life. So you have a choice. It up to you and what you’ll choose. You cannot afford to be a part of this mess. Find your life in Christ and live it, NOW.

A script is the written form of a movie, drama, film, play or speech. It is usually written to determine what exactly the actors would act. It is written before the film is acted. This means that the beautiful movies, plays and Barack Obama’s beautiful speeches have already been pre-planned and pre-determined before the impressive things you see. So is it with every man on this stage called on earth. We are all living out a certain script written for our lives. The bible says in Jeremiah 28:18 that God has clear cut plans for our lives before we were born.

But the devil also has an alternative plan that he has fashioned out for those who allow him to take charge of their lives. So who would you like to follow? Now what you do every second is your script. If you choose to flip this page right now then that is your script. But like you itemize the things you want to do in the day before you go to bed the previous day and go ahead to do just that on that day, which is called planning, so it is in life. You are either living God’s beautiful plan or the Devil’s horrible plan.

How do you live God’s plan? Proverbs 3:5-6 says rely/depend on Him with all you heart; in all your ways let His will be your act, AND HE WILL DIRECT YOUR LIFE. Psalm 119:105, His word shows you the way and guides you all the way in THAT (His) way.(Please read both scriptures and meditate on them. They are with deep meanings. You may even discuss them in your fellowship or with your pastor for deeper understanding).

From both scriptures, God says you will live your life yourself (you are the actor) according to your script (your plan). But you should allow Him to show you how you can live your life best, how you can write a better script for yourself. Allow Him to direct your life. Like the director at the location of a play or movie, He will tell you when you are right or wrong, what you should do better or stop doing. HE WILL HELP YOU TO WRITE YOUR SCRIPT AND EVEN DIRECT YOUR ACTIONS ON THE STAGE OF LIFE.

You don’t have to leave the life that societal ills have to offer. You can live a different life. Even though that girl I talked about has such terrible parents, some of us have the best parents in the world. Even though there is so much pornography around us, some of us have chosen to keep our eyes off them and fix them on God and live holy lives. Determine to right your life, no matter what you’ve been through; lay it at God’s feet today. And if you think you don’t need God’s guidance in your life cos it all going smoothly, watch out, the smooth will soon get very slippery....and the fall might not be funny. Find your life in God and live your best life today. God will help us all. CHEERIO

Written by Dade Akinwande

He Had A Dream...Why Can't We?

This story begins at a time when there was no hope.

Black people just like you and me were a faceless group amongst Americans, Blacks born and bred there were barely called third rate Americans, second only to the mixed and coloured peoples riff-raffs who make up a third the American populace. Blacks were a gathering of dejected and wasted people barely off the plantations where our forefathers had laboured for centuries as slaves and serves. The movie Roots is a good depiction of the life and times of the black slave in the hands of the white Lords. If you haven’t seen the movie, make sure you see it at least once, but please don’t watch it too many times or you might get the feeling of grabbing a fresh cutlass and finding the next white homie you can lay your eyes on and relieve him of his head.

100 years earlier to the time of this story, the white man had signed the Emancipation proclamation makng the black man a full fledged American citizen, but as recently as the 1960’s the black man could not get served at a white man’s restaurant. He could not share the same bus, He could not go to the same school nor could he fall in love with a white Chic and live within the society. Rather they got severely beaten in the street for standing too close to white property or shot publicly for requested to get the same right as their white brothers. If a black man was found to be rebellious or was found challenging the white man’s authoritarian rule of society a terrorist secret cult backed by wealthy and highly placed White men called the “Ku klux Klan” which had made it self a tool for bringing retribution to blacks that resisted the white man’s oppression and almost always, they treated his rebellion with deadly return. (Now who said the Arabs started terrorism)

Blacks lived in utter fear and in degrading circumstances and the White man’s Apartheid was all but legal. It seemed like it will never end and many black had come to accept their fate in life and believe that somehow God had dealt us the worst hand possible to any race on the Earth. We were the dredge of the earth – a mere Nigger.

But one man really believed differently. A certain gentleman, in the midst of the Civil movements of the 1960’s arose with other black but educated men and women, asking and then peacefully challenging the lot of the black man in the American society. A man named Dr. Martin Luther king Jr. Recently I watched a recording of a speech the man gave to a mammoth crowd in the 1960’s. He spoke about a dream on 28th August 1963 and I will quote parts of it.

“…Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment I still have a dream… I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood…

…I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive…

…The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone…I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

You should read that whole speech…it made tears come to my eyes recently and I will tell you why.

Not too long after this speech Martin Luther King Jr. was shot by we know who…but please note, I do not engender hatred against white people,(It is not a white man’s disease but a sin of all of Humanity) for if they did not kill him, maybe we would not be telling his story today.
On the 20th of January 2009, less than 50 years later another gentleman Mr. Barack Obama, a black man with an astonishingly fast rise to the position of the most Powerful Leader in the World and President of the United States of America symbolically rolled back the pain and suppression of the black man in that land, fulfilling the dream of Martin Luther King Jr.

Coincidentally, a day to the Inauguration of President Obama as the 44th President of the United States, the United States celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. and his dream on the 19th of January 2009 (as usual practice on the third Monday in the month of January). This day fell on the day before the first black president was sworn in. humm!!!

It struck me and many others that somehow before Martin Luther King Jr. was born God had planned that day to herald the fulfilment of his dream controlling men and orchestrating policies to manifest his word through Martin Luther King Jr. when Dr. King said “I have a dream that one day…the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. (See the last paragraph of the Quote above)

We all saw that day and stood in amazement and realized clearly that God reigns supreme in the lives and affairs of men. Think about this and believe.

I ask you then today, if you believe in the same God who could break the oppressive rule of the Egyptians over the Israelites, the Persians over the Greeks, the Romans over the world. Or is he not still the same God who broke the oppression of the White man over the Black? Can the same God not break the hand of a black Nigerian man over other Nigerians? Why then do we Nigerians think that God cannot cause Nigeria to change?

I tell you this therefore assuredly, even though we see times of hopelessness and the stranglehold of the Nigerian-corrupt, choke and suppression every voice of a greater future. I say to you that one day Nigeria will stand up and be the Nigeria of our dreams, a nation where good and honest men may freely pursue their dreams and help all others achieve theirs too. A day will come when our leaders will be men that will fight for our greater good and they will not squander our joint inheritance on personal enrichment and empowerment.

I see a time when the Nigerian Child will have hope and our taxes will go to ensuring his hope will be fulfilled. One day Nigeria will be greater than the America we see today.

This is my dream, it can be your dream and can be everyone’s too. God can make it and a lot more than you can ask or imagine.

God bless Nigeria, God bless us and God bless you.
Dream Nigeria.

Written by Tolu Awobiyi

Questions That Matter Most

Asking questions is good and it is very necessary to apply wisdom in the process of asking. Jesus even said till now you’ve not asked; ask till your joy is full. So, if I may ask, how do you ask? What are some of your numerous questions that need answers?

v Where is God?
v Why do parents shout at their children to get things done?
v Must I tell my parents, especially my mum, everything?
v Why should I smile when I’m boiling inside?
v How will I get over my past?
v Why me? Why is this happening to me?
v Why do they have to decide for me?
v Why is sex not good for me now?

Let’s stop there. The questions are so many that I doubt we exhaust them till Jesus comes. However, there are some questions to also ask. We are going to apply economic terms now. These questions are asked by the entrepreneur or manufacturer:

v What to produce
v For whom to produce
v How to produce
v The last I think is not frequently asked and it’s the ultimate is Why Do I Have To Produce? (Gen 1: 26)

What to Produce: Gen 1: 1-27
God in His infinite mercies has provided and supplied everything needed according to His Eternal Computer (The Bible). All God, who is the first and the last, needs you to produce is your AVAILABILITY. He declares the end from the beginning. He already helped you out by solving the first problem i.e. He created you. Therefore, produce good fruits (Gal. 5:22). At this early stage of your life, I beg of you, make sure you’re there for Him for Him to be there for you too. This is the bitter truth; you need God more than He needs you Psalm 8:4. So, be AVAILABLE.

For whom to produce: Isaiah 61: 1-3
By their fruit, ye shall know them. Your input determines your output and what you make happen in the lifes of others, God will make happen in your own life too. An adage says, “He who pelts another with pebbles asks for rocks in return” You are to produce your availability in two ways (a) Vertical (God) (b) Horizontal (Man). Who is the first in your life? Who can you give the best? Can God trust you with your time, money, talent, gift and so on. Do you love Him? Can you really surrender to Him? Are you doing what God asked you to do? Do you have a good relationship with Him? Can He call you while you’re busy doing something else and you’ll respond? The whole law was summed up into two: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, power… and love your neighbour as you love yourself. You’ll be known for two things in life 1. The problems you solve 2. The problems you caused. Listen, once your vertical relationship is shaky, your horizontal relationship will never be balanced.

How to Produce: John 15: 1-5
The question that should ring in your mind next is how to produce my availability to God and make impact in life as a young person? (Gal 4: 19, Phi 2:5,) doing things in your own way will automatically give you your desired answer which is deadly. Doing it God’s way is much better because He said I know my thoughts towards you, they are good … God has made a promise which He will certainly fulfil. Thinking of what to do? Here it is, obey Him (Isaiah 55: 1-2). Trust Him. He has promised not to leave you; all you need do is hearken to His word; don’t lean on your own understanding.

Why do I need to produce? Exo 8: 1)
This last question is to be the first question by everyone. You’ve got to ask yourself, WHY! Why is a question you ask in order to know what happened, how it happened, to whom and what to do about it? Its quite unfortunate that the major question mostly asked is, “God, WHY ME? If you don’t want to end up with why me then start your question with WHY AM I ON EARTH? By that you can proceed to what, whom, and how. (Exo 3: 12, 5:1, 8:1). Why were the children of Israel told to go out of Egypt? To serve God, Moses would have been a fool not knowing the reason he was appointed. He knew God called him to bring out the children of Israel out to serve God (Exo. 8:1). He was to be available, without excuse (Exo 3:4, 7-9) and had to listen to every instruction given to him by God (Exo. 3: 12)

In conclusion, this WHY seems crucial, that’s why I made up my mind to say what my why would be:
W - What
H - Happens what happens after every step we take in life?
Y - Yonder
God who is the first and the last, He declares the end right from the beginning, knows it all. If that is the case before you do anything, no matter how pleasing, appealing, attractive, and good it is always ask this question WHAT HAPPENS YONDER? (WHY). By the time I’ll stand before my Creator on the last day, what will become of me?

Written by Toyin Ogundana