Friday, May 1, 2009

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.
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.
“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.

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