Sunday, August 23, 2009

MINE Collection Centers!

Thank God! Our Collection Centers are increasing. God bless those offering their homes, offices and churches for this purpose. If you’re a subscriber or plan to be, please note the Collection Centre that covers your geographical location. If none of them covers yours, your magazine would be posted to you until we get a centre near you.
We’re still very open for more collection centres, where subscribers all over Nigeria can go and pick their magazines. Please let us know if your home, office, school, church or wherever else you deem fit, can be used. The condition is that it should be a place subscribers can access easily, anytime and any day.
As at now, we have the following:
· Opeoluwa Odeyemi. T5, Mozambique Hall, OAU, Ile-Ife. (For ALL subscribers in Ile-Ife, both on campus and in town) Tel: 08068462717
· Queen Ejimbe. Emmanuel Anglican Church, by Rumuokoro Roundabout, Okoronuodu Deanary, Port Harcourt. (For ALL subscribers in Port Harcourt). Tel: 08034326636
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· Joshua Olaade. Assistant Camp Manager's Office, Opposite C.R.M bookshop, Redemption Camp, Ogun state. (For ALL subscribers in Redemption Camp) Tel: 08061366882
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· Mr. Francis Oduola. MegaFest Ventures. 11, Ijaiye Road, Opposite NIJ, Ogba. (For ALL subscribers in Ogba and Agege). Tel: 08038584799
· May Audu. Room 331, Hall 9, University of Calabar. (For ALL subscribers in UNICAL). Tel: 07031120627
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Dear subscriber, thanks for your understanding. If you have any comments or complaints on any of these centers, please let us know.
All correspondence as regards this should be sent to or 07034721385. God bless you. You are loved!!!

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 8)

The morning was rather cold and Uche wondered why he felt so uneasy. He tied his towel round his waist and walked towards the bathroom, choosing to discard the unpleasant feeling that something bad was going to happen. On entering the bathroom, many boys were in the shower, most talking, while others were either singing or just enjoying their morning bath in silence.
There were many shower stands in the bathroom, so he didn’t have to wait for anyone to be through. He found one in the far corner, and decided to use it. As he had his bath, he remembered the events of the previous day. He smiled as he remembered his first encounter with Fatima at the lecture hall. One thought led to the other, and he finally ended up thinking of the last conversation they had where she told him about Jesus. Her story had sounded too good to be true; he longed for such a life of peace and joy as Fatima had.
Through the night, he had quite a restful sleep compared to what he had had for years. Uche could only attribute it to his opening up to Fatima and the hope she had brought into his life through the words she had spoken to him.
Walking out of the shower stand, he was ready to take the bold step. He was ready to let go of his past and embrace Jesus. The thought of doing that brought a smile to his face – a heart-felt smile.
Tunbosun had been too eager to get her clothes off the night before that she left the hall immediately the talent hunt was over. As she got to the room, she had changed into her night gown and slept almost immediately. The question that was on her mind as she tried to sleep was ‘Isn’t there more to life than money and education?’
She was still plagued with the fact that her father was so rich and educated, and was about to die like a chicken in the cruel claws of cancer. She didn’t bother fighting the tears; there was no one to see her tears. She only wondered what life was all about. As she thought, she remembered the lines of the girl who acted the one-man drama. ‘Could a relationship with Jesus be the solution?’ She however discarded the thought as soon as it came. ‘I don’t need a God who allows people to die of terrible diseases. Science is even doing more for people than God is’ she convinced herself.
She had slept in that state last night and woke up, hoping to have a quiet morning. She tossed on the bed and looked at her wristwatch. “6am!” She bolted upright and looked round. Girls were moving to and fro the room, some in nightgowns, some in towels, some already dressed in their uniforms. ‘How on earth did I sleep so long?’ she asked herself as she stood. She checked her Bunkie, Shade on the top bunk, and saw she wasn’t there.
Still wondering why nobody had tapped her, she saw Shade walking back from the bathroom.
“Good morning, sleepy head” Shade said, smiling at her.
“Good morning Shade”, she said, not the least happy. “Why didn’t you wake me up now?”
“I didn’t want to disturb you. Felt you must have been very tired.” Tunbosun gave her a questioning look that made Shade explain herself better. “You were already asleep before I came back to the room yesterday and when I saw you didn’t stir at the sound of the whistle this morning, I assumed you were really tired.”
“Thanks.” Tunbosun said, putting a hand to her head. She wondered what the sleep was about; she hardly slept that long. Looking back at her bunkmate, she added. “Please wake me up if such ever happens again”
“Sure” Shade said.
After a few minutes of silence in which Shade got dressed and Tunbosun prepared to use the bathroom, Shade voiced out. “I have gist for you” she said giggling.
Tunbosun guessed where her new friend was going with the conversation and she was totally not interested. Before she could tell Shade to keep the gist till when she was done bathing, her Bunkie had started talking already. She was indeed love-lost.
‘Why on earth am I stuck with this girl’, Tunbosun thought to herself as Shade ranted on and on about the wonderful time she has with Utibe the day before. When Tunbosun couldn’t stomach the girl’s naivety anymore, she politely told Shade she would listen to the rest when she was back from the bathroom.
As she picked her bucket and walked out of the room, she remembered what had made her sleep so long and deep. She had had a dream. As she remembered the dream, she immediately had goose pimples. Her knees knocked, she had to lean on the door for a few seconds. Tunbosun was afraid. ‘Oh God! If at all you’re there, please don’t let it happen to me’ was all she could say as she tried fruitlessly to calm herself.
“Oh boy, I saw you yesterday o!” Okpara was saying, as the trio sat on Utibe’s bed, waiting for the whistle.
“That girl seems too easy. Guess I’m fortunate to be the one who got her first” Utibe said, looking particularly at Stanley, who had proved himself so far to be girl-crazy but he noticed Stanley wasn’t saying anything. “How far man?” he said, poking Stanley.
“Don’t mind me. Just thinking.” He smiled. “I liked your moves yesterday. You played according to plan. You must proceed today. By the time you two have the chance of sitting together, you’ll go deeper.” He said, doing some motions with his hand and the three boys burst into laughter. “After that first time, she’ll be the one begging to have more.”
“Stanley!” the other two chorused, still laughing.
“That’s me! Girls are to be used and dumped. That’s what my brother taught me, and I believe him. You should see how that guy is enjoying life.” He paused his lips. “If you see the babes, I mean, babes that he carries, you’ll salute. He even told me one day that since I’m finer than him, I had better do better than him. And I’ll live up to that challenge. He had three girls when he came for this conference. My own will be five!” he said, confidently.
“Stanlo bobo!” Okpara exulted. “How about Tunbosun now?”
“I still dey plan for that your school mate” he said, facing Okpara. “Did you see what she wore yesterday?”
“No, I was too busy looking at all those girls who were dancing and showcasing their stuffs yesterday”
“Na that one you know how to do – looking.” Stanley said, and then faced Okpara. “What about you?”
“You know now! I was too engrossed with Shade.”
“You two missed!” Stanley said, clearly excited. You should have seen that short and tight black gown she wore. I swear, I thought I was not seeing clearly. That girl is hot.”
“You thought I was blind when I tried my possible best to get her in school?” Okpara said.
“Now, I know why she’s playing hard to get. She wants it and wants me to pursue her but I’m bigger than that. I’m already planning how I would get her to walk by that uncompleted hall tonight.” As he said that, a thought flashed through his mind. Before he could voice out, the whistle sounded.
“I have an idea” he said as they got down from the bunk. “Remind me to tell you guys something in the dinning hall after we’re done with the briefing” he said to his friends. The plan was beginning to come together. Stanley smiled to himself. ‘I’m a genius’.
Walking to the lecture hall for the half-an-hour briefing, George kept praying. He still felt burdened in his heart for Fatima. He looked forward to seeing her in the hall. ‘I would call her and we would pray together about this burden I have’ he thought to himself as he stepped into the hall. He walked down the stairs and found a seat in the front.
He was so pre-occupied in thoughts that he didn’t notice the girl sitting next to him. She flipped over a page of the book she was reading. That sound caught George’s attention, and he suddenly remembered his manners. He turned to his right and greeted her.
“Good morning” he said. As he looked at her, he felt the face was familiar. But she didn’t respond like she knew him; just gave him a polite reply. It was as he thought a little more that he recalled where he saw that face. She was the girl who was shedding tears when Fatima acted her drama yesterday. He knew deep within that God would have him do something to help her. He stole a glance at her and saw she seemed the shy type.
‘How on earth am I going to talk to this girl?’ George contemplated in his heart. ‘Fatima, where are you. Come and help me with this girl’. He discarded the idea of talking to the girl immediately. He couldn’t stomach the courage to talk to her. He decided he would talk to Fatima about it; he was sure she’ll know just the right way to go about it.

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 9)

The lecture hall was full to capacity. All the students were seated for the 7am briefing, after which they would go for breakfast. The briefing was the time when the activities of the day would be stated, and when other necessary announcements would be made. It was a procedure unique to this annual conference; the organizers intended to keep the students on their toes at all times; so there was no program list given to the participants; they only got to find out what was going to happen on the day on the morning of that particular day.
The Conference Director greeted the students and began talking. He stated that the first session of the day would be a mind-stimulating program where they would be put in groups and expected to come up with ideas that would benefit the community. They would convert whatever ideas they come up with into projects to be executed in Port Harcourt in the course of the conference. After that would be lunch, then they would be grouped again after lunch for a socializing event; where each student would meet at least 5 new people and they would teach each other new skills or just transfer knowledge.
The strange thing about this grouping was that it was not going to be voluntary, that is, no participant could chose what group to belong to. They were asked to take numbers from 1 to 10. They were warned not to change their group as it could affect their personal assessment negatively at the end of the conference.
After all that was done, the Director told the students he had announcements to make. After saying a few, he ended with the last one. “One of us had a crisis yester night and was rushed to the Teaching Hospital. Please do well to pray for her speedy recovery. Her name is Fatima Yuguda. Thank you all for your time. You can go for breakfast now.”
Uche was immobilized. He did not know what to think. He did not know where to start from. ‘Was this the source of the feeling I had earlier today’. He tried so hard to take in the message. Fatima was having a crisis. He had discovered from his many years of reading how dreadful it could be for an SS patient to have a crisis.
He remembered what Fatima told him the day before. “Moreover, since when I accepted Christ, I haven’t had a crisis; not once…Would be four years tomorrow” she had said. ‘What a terrible coincidence’. Uche thought as he began getting upset with God. ‘Why would you allow this to happen to someone so devoted to you? If you could do this to Fatima, what hope is there for me in this world with a God like you? Fatima doesn’t deserve to suffer.’
Thoughts from his past came hunting Uche again, and he concluded. ‘God, you must be heartless! I wonder why people even trust you in the first place.’ Uche stood up angry and walked out of hall, gritting his teeth to keep from shedding tears. ‘Life is so cruel’ he concluded, wondering how miserable he would be the rest of the conference without his new friend around.
“In all things, give thanks” Those were the only words George managed to mumble to himself over and again as his eyes filled. He had once seen his male friend in a crisis and the thought of Fatima going through the same was more than he could handle. He had been looking forward to seeing her, to get help and direction, but now, she was beyond reach and he didn’t know for how long she would be away. He suddenly felt so alone.
But he remembered a scripture they both had leant at one of the fellowship meetings in school and that was the scripture he now confessed. He knew beyond a doubt that God had good plans for all His children and that all things would eventually work out fine. He decided to give God thanks even though it was hard to see a reason so to do.
‘But God I prayed’ he directed that thought at God. Though he didn’t get a reply, he knew God had had his prayers. It could have been worse. Right there in the hall, he bowed his head and prayed silently for his friend, asking God to keep her strong through it all. As he prayed, he felt led to also ask God to strengthen him and others like Uche who looked up to Fatima. He wondered if anyone would be allowed to visit her.
George looked up, feeling much relieved that he had cast his cares upon God. He noticed however that the girl sitting next to him was still there. And what he saw was a replica of what he had seen the night before. She was crying again.
Before George knew what was happening, he heard himself saying, “God loves you”
He was about reprimanding himself for being forward but the girl looked up at him, and the tears intensified. It was at that point that he knew the Holy Spirit had just spoken through Him.
He said it again. “God loves you and can make you whole again!” George couldn’t believe he was the one saying those words because he didn’t even know where the words were coming from. The girl began to sob.
George on a normal day would have felt embarrassed, not knowing what to do, but this time was different. “If you’ll let Him, He’ll make you new.”
He didn’t touch her hand though he wanted to, to comfort her but just felt it would be inappropriate at the moment. He just kept saying the words as they came for the next few minutes, oblivious to everything else.
By the time she calmed down, without looking at him, she voiced her thanks.
“Would you want to talk about it?” he asked. She shook her head. “You can trust me” he said, and with that she looked up at him again. George could see fear in those eyes. He was sure someone must have really hurt her.
She kept her head down and sat motionless. It seemed like she was analyzing the offer he had just posed. She then wiped her tears and rose to her feet. She looked at George and said barely above a whisper. “Thanks. I would love to” With that she walked away from him and towards the exit of the hall.
George was at a loss. It had been quite difficult hearing what she said, now he wondered what she meant by ‘I would love to’. “Oh!” he breathed with a smile. He remembered the question he had just asked her. She had just agreed to open up to him. He didn’t know when she would but he knew she eventually would.
‘Fatima, I wish you were here to see what happened.’ George was so happy. God had spoken through him and now, he was about to become a counselor. It seemed too good to be true. He rose from the seat and smiled as he walked out. ‘God, you sure have a way of making seemingly ugly situations turn out beautiful’ he said in his heart.
“Oh boy, I don’t like the way things are looking. These guys are spoiling show.” Stanley was saying to Okpara and Utibe as they made their way to the dinning hall. “I had already pictured that there would be sports today, so I could execute my runs with Tunbosun.”
Stanley was not the only one whose plans had been disrupted. Utibe’s had been too. With the new schedule, he wondered if he would have the opportunity to progress with Shade. He had been tempted to look out for her and know what group she would fall into but pride got the better of him. He knew she would be looking at him; he didn’t want her to feel he was desperate for her; he felt that would make her feel too special. He decided however not to mention that to the boys.
“That reminds me. You said we should ask you about the idea you had after the briefing” Okpara chipped in.
Stanley smiled. “You really hate this girl. You really want me to nail her for good!”
“You bet!”
“Okay then. It would be Utibe who would do most of the work.” Stanley said.
Utibe who had been rather quiet in the conversation was taken aback. “Please don’t do that to me. Okpara is better than me in all these things now!” He said, trying to avoid any responsibility Stanley would want to place on him.
“You be slacker.” Okpara said, slapping him on the back. “Hear wetin Stanley wan talk first before you complain.”
“No mind am” Stanley said. “Na easy thing I even wan make he do o!” He looked at Utibe and smiled when he saw the defiant expression on his face. “Na only you wan enjoy for his place. Is it because you already have that Shade girl in your palms? See…s” Stanley said, placing a hand on Utibe’s shoulder. “All I need from you is to get Shade to agree that she will deliver my package to me.”
The look on Utibe’s face showed he was lost and so was Okpara.
“Let me break it down for you. On the next day we have sports, since they have cancelled that for today, I will need your girl to lure Tunbosun into that uncompleted building. I will take it up from there.” Stanley watched Utibe’s face as he tried to process the new information.
“That shouldn’t be a problem” Utibe finally said and then added. “But that means I would have to tell Shade what our plans are.”
“Why not.” Stanley replied.
“You’re sure she won’t report to the authorities when she hears what we hope to do. I’m not sure that girl will betray her friend.” It was Okpara chipping in.
“I think she will” Stanley replied. “I know girls. If it were to be Tunbosun, she won’t betray Shade just to please a guy but I’ve analysed Shade; she would be too willing to do it.”
“Stanley, I agree with you on that.” Utibe said. “With the petty talks we had yester night; it’s even obvious that she feels Tunbosun is too rigid. Shade will do it. When do I tell her?”
“You could tell her during breakfast now. I’m so sure, she’ll be dying for you to get to the hall so she could come over and sit with you.” Stanley said, giggling. “Shade reminds me of the first girl I slept with when I was fourteen.” He burst into laughter. “Girls could be very stupid. Shade fits that profile perfectly.”
Utibe smiled. “But I wonder what she would be able to say that would convince Tunbosun to follow her into that building. That girl is smart o!”
“Are you telling me? I have turned it over severally in my mind. You’ll tell her…”
“Double up guys!” The Conference Director hollered from the entrance door of the dinning hall, interrupting their discussion. They had to jog up along with the few stragglers ahead of them.
The moment Shade saw the trio enter the hall, her excitement increased. She kept looking at Utibe, hoping he would be looking round to see where she was seated. He wasn’t. She followed him with her eyes till he sat down. As expected, the other two guys left a space beside Utibe, obviously for her. She was about to stand, when a firm hand held her lap down, as discreetly as possible, preventing her from standing up.
It was Tunbosun. “Don’t you have some trace of female dignity left; as least, a little?” Tunbosun was looking at her with a combination of concern and anger.
‘This girl is beginning to irritate me. She is talking as if she’s my mother’ Shade thought to herself, as her friend talked on.
“Why would you just throw yourself at a guy? Why are you the one going to meet him? Why can’t he be the one looking for you?”
She had just echoed Shade’s thoughts. Though she wanted to discard it, she couldn’t. She had been disappointed when Utibe came in without making an eye-search for her. She had felt that way too in the hall some minutes back. The moment she knew they would be taking numbers, she had looked in his direction to see what number would be his. He was number 3.
When it was her turn, she was number 1. She had decided to lie when asked and join Group 3 so she could be in his group. What upset her however was that throughout the numbering period, Utibe did not once look around in search of her to find out what her number was and she had felt very cheap.
Now, he had just done the same thing and Tunbosun had talked about it too. Her ego shot up immediately. ‘No guy is going to take me for a ride’ she thought to herself. “Thanks girlfriend.” She said facing Tunbosun. “I won’t go over”.
As she said that, she saw relief flood Tunbosun’s face. ‘Why does this girl care this much?’ She thought, wondering if the feeling was mutual. ‘Am I this concerned for her?’ she asked herself, and deep within she knew the answer was no. Just then, a weird thought came to her mind and she actually wondered where the thought came from. ‘If a reason ever occurred where I had to chose between making Utibe happy and making Tunbosun happy, who would I chose?’
As she asked herself, she stole a look in Utibe’s direction and looked at Tunbosun who had started eating her food. She knew the answer, and that answer made her feel guilty and ashamed of herself. Utibe’s happiness was her priority!

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 10)

Nurses walked briskly in different directions. The waiting room was crowded, full of people with different needs and complaints. Any observer would have felt either of two feelings; repulsion or pity. It was a large room full of diseases, faces void of hope, bodies full of pain. As is peculiar to teaching hospitals, many were there to get cures to their ailments at the cheapest possible rate.
Many rooms away and two floors upward was a serene room. It had four beds; only two were occupied. On one of the beds was Fatima. She was asleep, curled up under a light sheet. She had been admitted some hours back and had received urgent attention from the staff the moment she arrived. Things had calmed down a bit and the demand on the hospital staff had increased by the hour, so she got an hourly checkup.
The door creaked and Fatima stirred. A nurse had just come in for another checkup. The nurse was gentle and didn’t disturb her much as she made observations. She told Fatima she would be back in an hour to give her drugs. As she left, Fatima turned her face back to the wall, and decided to talk to her best friend.
Before she could even start, the tears had started dropping. She was in pain; both physically and emotionally. She wondered why this challenge had to resurface after four years of healthy living. ‘Lord, did I do something wrong? Is there something you’re trying to teach me?’ Those were the questions her heart desperately sought answers to. As she got overwhelmed, even in her tears, she found her voice and sang quietly to God.
Today O! I’ll lift up my voice in praise
Today O! I’ll lift up my voice in praise
For I know You are always there for me
Almighty God, You are my all in all
No matter what I face
When troubles come my way, I will praise you Lord.
As she sang that song over again, listening to every word she sang to God, she found His heart again. She was reminded that God was there with her even in her pain, and He had a perfect and wonderful reason for allowing her suffer a crisis one more time. Her tears of pain and doubt became tears of gratitude and trust.
She heard her name and turned slightly. She hadn’t noticed anyone walk into the room. It was Doctor Festus. “How are you doing…” he was saying but as he saw her tear-stained face, he was worried and placed a hand on her forehead. “Are you okay? Nurse Maureen just told me she had checked on you and you were not in too much pain”
“I’m okay” she said, smiling through the tears. That got the doctor confused. A smile was the last thing he expected from somebody in her present state. “I just had a conversation with my boyfriend” she said, giggling but trying not to exert too much pressure on her body at the same time.
“I’m confused”. The doctor said, sincerely. “Can’t see where you would have gotten a phone from.”
The doctor raised an eye brow, still lost.
“Jesus is my boyfriend. Just spoke with Him and He had made me feel much better; at least emotionally for now, and I know He’s working on the physical part as we speak.”
Doctor Festus was dumbfounded. He had treated many Christian patients in the course of his nearly three decades of medical practice, but this one lying on the bed before him had something different about her. And she was just a kid.
“Doc, please can you spare a few minutes?”
He took a look at his wrist watch. “5 minutes”.
She motioned him to sit on the chair beside her bed and he did. “Thank you for taking good care of me so far. Was quite surprised to get such care and attention in a Federal hospital.”
“You’re welcome dear. We are trying to make health care services better.”
Fatima winced as she tried to turn.
“Sorry dear. Be careful.”
“Do you know I haven’t had a crisis in four years?”
“Really?” he asked.
“That’s strange but I must confess I’ve seen such exceptions too, especially with patients who faithfully take their medication”
“Wrong sir!” She said, now smiling. “Four years without medication”
The doctor just observed her as she spoke. She was so excited about was she was saying. It showed on her face though the tiredness of the body beclouded it a bit. Even her smile was a tired one. He tired to imagine what she was like on a normal day.
“How did you go about that?”
“Faith. Faith in Jesus!”
He had heard these faith talks before, so he let it pass. “I’m happy for you dear but you see that’s why you’re back here again because it’s not just about faith, you need the solutions science has provided for you.”
“Wrong again sir! I just have this feeling I came here not because of this…” she couldn’t continue as she allowed a wave of pain to subside.
“Have you taken your drugs?” he said, concerned at the look on her face.
She nodded. And when she could talk, she added. “The nurse said I would take another set soon.”
“Okay.” He said, standing. “I think I should leave you now so you could rest.” He paused. “By the way, would you want us to allow folks from the conference come visiting you?”
“I would love to” she said, brightening up a bit.
“Any particular people?”
“George, Uche, Mr Aminu and any others.”
He scribbled down the names. “I’ll call the Conference Director to inform him.”
“Thanks Doc.”
“You’re welcome”. He said and turned to leave but stopped as he heard her call him. “Yes Fatima?”
“I don’t know your name sir?”
He smiled. “So sorry. I’m Festus. Doctor Festus”
“Nice meeting you sir.” She paused and looked straight at him. “Doc Festus, I think God brought me here because of you.” She smiled when she saw the expression on his face. She would have laughed if she had the energy to.
Before he could ask her any questions. She waved at him and turned away. ‘Let him do some thinking’ she said to herself, smiling. Doctor Festus shook his head, smiling at the mischievous patient before him, and left the room.
Fatima didn’t know why she had just made that statement but she was so sure she had been led of God to say so. It felt so good doing God’s will even in days of trouble. She thanked God for the opportunity she was going to have to see her friends and teacher again. She was surprised how much she had missed them already. She wondered if Uche had finally given his life to Christ. As they thoughts played on her mind, she slept off.
“Thank you Sir. Would be expecting you.” Doctor Festus said as he replaced the receiver of the land line. He had just spoken with the Conference Director and they had promised to send a delegation of conference participants, including the teacher Fatima had requested for. The Director had said they would come during lunch break which was scheduled for 1:30pm.
Doctor Festus reclined on his seat, deciding to have a 5-minutes break before calling in the next patient. He had some thinking to do. The moment he had seen Fatima earlier on in the day, he had been drawn to her. She reminded him of things he didn’t want to ever remember. Yet, there was just something different about her. He had not known what it was until he spoke with her a few minutes ago. It was then he had discovered that she was indeed special.
And now, she had said she thinks she had been hospitalized because of him. It was a weird thought, but he couldn’t shake off the feeling that she just might have been saying the truth.
He looked at the calendar. It was exactly five months ago that he had tried to take his own life. He had done despicable things in his life time, and he was beginning to suffer for them. He was desperate to hold on to any glimmer of hope; if at all there was any. Fatima was offering him that.
He placed his hands on the sides of his head, trying to block away the sounds and sights that fought for his attention. He couldn’t allow them; they would ruin him. He still didn’t understand how Fatima would be of help, but for the first time in five months, he felt he was close to being free again.
Almost everyone had left the dinning hall. George stayed there. He was missing Fatima but had prayed and knew God was taking care of her. He just wished they would give him an opportunity to see her. He still wanted to ask her how to go about counseling the new girl he had met. He was new into this and was so scared of doing it wrong. He had thought he would see the girl during breakfast but he hadn’t. He wondered if she came to the dining hall at all.
As he was about to rise from the table, he looked at the plates that littered the table and he remembered what Fatima said she and Uche had done the night before. He looked up, and as if on cue, a couple of tables away was Uche, just starring at his table too. The same thoughts must have been on his mind.
George walked over to him. “Good morning Uche”
“Hey! Morning John” Uche said, plainly.
“George” he corrected, smiling.
“Oh sorry. George.” He paused. “Sorry about Fatima”
“Sorry too. I’m sure she’s fine. God will take care of her.” As George said that, he saw the reaction on Uche’s face but decided to let it pass. He couldn’t blame the guy. He was bound to have doubts. But looking at Uche, George was sure that he would eventually succumb to the love of God, so he needed to give him time to deal with his doubts like he had had to at some point in his life too.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking about these plates?” George said, slapping Uche on the shoulder. That elicited a smile from the forlorn boy.
“How did you know?”
“I could guess. Shall we?”
“I guess so” Uche said as they both began clearing up the dishes.
When they were through, the kitchen women thanked them profusely as they had thanked Fatima and Uche the night before. As they were about stepping out of the hall, Mr Aminu walked in.
“Good morning sir” George said greeting his teacher.
“Good morning George. Good morning my friend” he said looking at George, and then at Uche. “George, I have been looking around for you. Do you know any Uche?”
George smiled. “He is Uche” he said. Pointing at his friend.
“Wow, that makes my work easier. The Conference Director just informed me that Fatima would like the three of us to come visit her.” As he said that, he saw the expressions on the faces of the two boys. ‘Fatima must really mean a lot to these guys’ he thought.
“When? Now?” It was George asking.
“No, not now”, Mr Aminu smiled. “During lunch.”
“That’s okay. I hope she’s fine anyway?” Uche asked.
“Yes she is. So, I’ll see you guys at 1:30, right?”
“Yes Sir” they echoed as Mr Aminu excused himself.
George and Uche were clearly excited as they walked out of the dining hall. They longed to see Fatima; their friend who had touched their hearts.

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 11)

The hall alone couldn’t do for the group discussions that had been scheduled for the morning session, so only five groups remained in the hall while the facilitators of the other groups led their respective groups to other suitable locations. The Conference Director had stated during his opening remark that at the end of the conference, their projects would be graded and the best group would be awarded. That was all he needed to say to raise the eagerness of the participants to put in their best.
Tunbosun was in Group 7, one of the groups that were led out of the hall. She loved things that had to do with bettering the lot of the society, so she was sure with her inputs, and those of other intelligent colleagues, her group stood the chance of coming out on top. Their leader, who later introduced herself as Dr. Ogechi, was very friendly and helped make integration among the group members easy.
Before they began anything, she told them to bow their heads for prayer. That seemed to surprise many but she didn’t seem to care. Afterwards, they took numbers; they were 102 altogether. She told them specifically that she wasn’t there to tell them what to do, but to assist them whenever they got stuck. She stated that they would need to have leaders and asked for volunteers.
A few seconds passed without anybody raising a hand. Then, a hand was raised, then another, then another, until nine hands were up. Tunbosun was still contemplating on whether or not to volunteer, when Dr. Ogechi voiced out. “Any other person?”
At that, she raised her hand, making it ten volunteers. They were asked to come into the center of the circle that had been formed. They were four boys and six girls altogether.
“We only have five positions to be filled, so we would have to nicely eliminate five of you” Dr. Ogechi said, smiling at the volunteers. “Thank you for volunteering, but now I need five of you to volunteer to return to their seats.” She said, looking rather serious now, and that educed some giggling from floor members.
Tunbosun felt embarrassed and wondered if she should step down. She thought it over quickly and decided to give others a chance. As she was about moving, she noticed one of her co-volunteers was already going to his seat. He was a tall and lanky boy. She was encouraged. Soon, three others joined them, returning to their seats.
“Shall we give a round applause for our ‘5 men standing’” Dr. Ogechi said, smiling. “But I’m going to surprise you all by announcing to you that our leaders would be the five that opted out and not these five that chose to stay. They decided to sacrifice their desires, so others could have opportunities.”
Her statement was greeted with different reactions. “Friends, please come out.” She said pointing in the direction of those who had returned to their seats. “And folks, please return to your seats”, she said to those who were still standing, making a bow in their direction and swinging her hand in the direction of their seats; signaling they should have their seats.
Looking at the reactions on the different faces would have been an experience for anyone present. Reactions varied from disappointment, to surprise, to anger, to frustration, to disapproval but as at before, Dr. Ogechi showed she didn’t care about the reactions. She had something to say.
“It’s not all the time that those who step down for others are better than those who refused to step down, but most times, their hearts are usually large and kind; the kind of heart an intelligent leader needs to have. I might be wrong, so we would watch how things will play at the end of our project. Please put your hands together for our five leaders”. The applause was quite impressive.
“We would like to meet you” she said smiling; now facing the five. “Let’s start from you”, she said looking at Tunbosun.
“I’m Tunbosun Badmos of Standford College, Abuja.” She said and as she did, she saw the expression on faces. People generally respected students of Standford, both for their social class and for their academic reputation. She wasn’t affected by all of that. She wanted people to respect her for who she was, Tunbosun Badmos, and not for what school she attended.
She listened as the others introduced themselves. She was however keen on knowing the name of the tall and lanky boy. There was something about him that was different, though she couldn’t place it. She hoped she would somehow get close to him. ‘This is so strange of you Tunbosun’ she was telling herself, but she just couldn’t shake off the feeling. He just didn’t seem like the other guys.
When it was his turn, she heard him say, “My name is George Ahmadu of Comprehensive College, Kaduna”. She noted his name and Dr. Ogechi continued with the introductions.
When she was done, she stated that they would just need to trust her instincts as a psychologist. She stated that from the way the five introduced themselves, she knew what office each person would fit into.
She started by announcing that George would be the Leader of the group. As she said that, Tunbosun felt something she could not remember ever feeling. Desperation. She wanted to be the assistant leader, as she knew it would make her work closely with this lanky boy she wanted to meet.
“…Our assistant leader will be Tunbosun…” Dr Ogechi said, and continued.
Tunbosun was so pleased but tried not to show it. ‘George Ahmadu, I look forward to knowing you more’ she said to herself, sincerely pleased. It was the only thing in the conference so far that had made her look forward to the remaining eight days. She looked forward to working with this boy for reasons she couldn’t explain to herself.
Uche was taken aback with the sights in the hospital. He could not remember when last he had been to a health facility. He saw suffering almost everywhere he turned to. There was so much to see; from the women carrying their wailing or feeble children to people with skin diseases, to people looking so emaciated, it was clear their death was imminent.
The question that had played on his mind earlier in the day resurfaced again. ‘Why would a God who claims to care so much for humanity allow people to suffer so badly? Don’t people claim that He is a God of love and can do all things; I can’t see any proof of that right now.’ He said to himself as he, George, and Mr. Aminu waited in the congested waiting room. He had been surprised when he got to the car that was to convey them and saw that no one else, not even the Conference Director was accompanying them. He had expected more participants to volunteer.
He couldn’t help voicing out his disappointment to Mr Aminu and he had been told that the Conference Director hadn’t made it open but had only called the three people that Fatima had particularly requested for. Uche wondered why the CD would do that. On the other hand, as he waited, he couldn’t help feeling somewhat special that Fatima had requested for him to come.
He concluded in his mind however that whatever he felt when he saw Fatima was going to decide his fate with this God. ‘If that girl is suffering, God, then you and me are toast!’ Looking to his side, he noticed Mr. Aminu was reading a newspaper but George seemed to be concentrating; looking at nothing in particular. It was then Uche noticed something. Though George’s lips were not parted, they were moving slightly. ‘What is this guy doing?’ was Uche’s thought as he saw a nurse walk towards them.
“Please come up with me” she said, as they rose to follow her.
The moment nurse Maureen told her that her guests were around, Fatima was thrilled. She felt new strength cruise into her body and she was grateful. She propped herself up and continued talking with God, as she had been doing often in the past hours. A part of her rejoiced she was admitted; it gave her time with God she hadn’t had in a while.
As she committed her friends’ visit to Him, she heard Him say something to her. “He needs encouragement” she heard clearly. She did not need to think hard to know who the Lord was referring to. “Lord, please help me to be what you need me to be to Uche today. Holy Spirit, please teach me.” she said to her best friend, and relaxed knowing He would help her.
The door creaked. Nurse Maureen just opened it and told the guests they had thirty minutes to spend with Fatima. She noticed they greeted the other patient before coming to her bed side. Fatima had not yet had much to talk about with the woman who lay there. She seemed to be a Christian as she read her bible in the mornings but she was very reticent. She hardly said a word, except when nurses or the doctor came around. Fatima knew they would get to talk soon; what she didn’t know was how soon it would be.
She returned her attention to the trio that had walked towards her. Mr. Aminu had a look of casual pity, the type of ‘I see sick people every time, but sorry all the same’. She couldn’t fault him. He was still unmarried and obviously without kids. She was sure having a family would soften him a bit.
George on the other hand looked truly concerned for her. The moment he got close enough, he slipped his hand under hers and held it as he looked at her. She could see from his facial expression that though he didn’t like the state she was in, he wasn’t much troubled. He knew she was safe because she had Jesus. There was just this knowing in his eyes that there was nothing to be worried about.
The look that bothered her was that of Uche. He was quite expressionless and that bothered her. She was unable to decipher what he was thinking. And for her, that was not a good sign at all. It was then she remembered what God had told her earlier about encouraging Uche and she received wisdom to do just that.
“How are you feeling now dear?” Mr Aminu asked.
“Much better now, sir” Fatima replied.
“I hope you’re taking your drugs faithfully?” he asked again.
“I’m trying” she said, smiling at him, knowing he knew how much she dreaded taking drugs. He had been there five years back when she had an attack in her JSS1 Second term.
After answering his questions, she politely told him she needed to be alone with her friends and he willingly obliged. She motioned Uche to sit on the seat where Mr. Aminu had been seated and told George to get the other chair that was beside one of the vacant beds.
“How have you guys been?” she said, looking from one boy to the next.
George was the first to respond. “I’ve been good. But seeing you now, I’m better” he said, winking at her.
She smiled at him and then faced Uche. “And you?”
“Just there” he said.
Fatima was not satisfied with that but decided to let it pass. “Hope I haven’t missed too much?”
“Nah!” George responded. “We just got into groups for community projects.”
“Sounds lovely. Are you guys in the same group?”
“No. I’m in Group 7” George said, and then faced Uche.
“I’m in Group 1.”
“Cool. You guys must be having fun.” As she said that, she glanced at the wall clock and discovered she had just fifteen minutes left with her guests. Nurse Maureen was a very dutiful staff; Fatima was sure she would walk into the room at the exact moment the time was up. She decided to make the best of the remaining minutes.
“I have something I need to tell you guys” she said, propping herself up a little more. “I wondered myself why on earth the God I had served faithfully for the past four years would cause this to happen to me.” She looked at them as she spoke and saw they were listening to every word she was speaking.
“I had to ask myself if there were sins I had committed, for which I was being punished. As I wrestled in tears through the night, the Holy Spirit brought a scripture to my mind. ‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.’ That was enough to do the magic. I’m waiting to know exactly why this happened.” She paused. “But I have a clue” she said with a mischievous look, in a mock whisper.
She was just so special. Uche and George couldn’t help smiling. Fatima was pleased with their smiles. “Should I tell you?” she teased and they played along, nodding their heads.
“Doc needs a doc.” Her words were met with confused faces. She was pleased. “I thought you guys were smart. I’m disappointed” she said, giggling.
“What do you mean?” Uche asked this time, smiling.
Fatima was fulfilled, seeing Uche smile again. She knew God was doing some work on his heart. “I would have wanted to tell you but I think I like suspense. Wait and see” she said, hoping Nurse Maureen would come in, so she won’t have to give in to their pleas as the boys were already pleading for an explanation of her statement. ‘Hurry up Nurse!’ she pleaded silently.
“Please!” the boys echoed over again and Fatima kept shaking her head with her fingers to her ears. Just then, the door went ajar and Nurse Maureen entered, much to Fatima’s delight.
“Gentlemen, it’s time to say bye” the nurse said.
George and Uche faced Fatima with mock disappointed faces and she stuck out her tongue at them. They smiled. As they were about leaving, she called their attention. “Hey guys! I’ll miss you both.” She said and saw they were touched by her statement, not knowing how to respond. To help them out of the awkward situation, she decided to say something else. “See you guys tomorrow”
That statement now elicited raised eyebrows.
“You’re wondering how on earth I would be out of here tomorrow. You just watch and see.” She winked at them, then added. “Now, get out of here, before I change my mind” she said, looking so serious all of a sudden.
The boys laughed, Nurse Maureen joined in the laughter too as the three stepped put of the room. Fatima was just a big case. As they stepped out, she lay back down on the bed and lifted her heart to God. She couldn’t have planned it better. “Thank you Father for taking absolute control. I love you”
As she was about to close her eyes to rest, she heard the now familiar voice saying. “Two more hurdles to cross”. She was taken aback. She had thought she just had one more person to minister to; Doctor Fetsus. She wondered who the second was. Just then, her room mate sighed, catching Fatima’s attention, and she heard God tell her, “Talk with her now. Don’t wait one more minute or it would be too late”.

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 12)

“Oh boy, it’s not time to give up. It’s time for Plan B” Stanley said.
“That girl succeeded in boning me throughout today. Can you imagine? Since morning till now, even during lunch, Shade didn’t come to say hi. I thought we had something going yesterday. Maybe I was wrong.” Utibe responded.
“You weren’t wrong” It was Okpara this time. “The girl is just fronting. So, like Stanley said, you need to change approach. You thought she would come looking for you but she hasn’t. She wants to exercise her female pride; that’s still fair. So, pursue her. She wants to feel wanted; give it to her.”
“I don’t want her to feel more important than she is” Utibe protested.
“Oh boy, forget that side. The end point is to get in-between her legs, and you must do whatever you have to, even it if makes you look like a love-lost fool. You know what you want and when you get it, you’ll be the boss. She would now be the one clinging desperately to you, either because she wants more or because she has lost her pride and her only choice is to stick to you. That’s power my friend.” Stanley said, slapping Utibe on the back. “At that point, you’ll use her so bad and you’ll then dump her so hard. That’s what girls deserve.”
“Isn’t that rather cruel?” Utibe asked.
“Isn’t that rather cruel?” Stanley repeated, mimicking him and both he and Okpara laughed at their JJC friend. “You better wake up, Utibe. That’s life for you. If you don’t do that to them, they’ll be the ones to do that to you.”
“Shade doesn’t look the type”
“Get this into your chicken head” Okpara said, poking Utibe’s head. “Wickedness no dey show for face. If anybody had told me that my mum would dump my father who loved her for another man, I would have said it’s impossible. But she did. That’s why I can never love any woman. Women, as far as I’m concerned, are sex machines and baby producers – period. If you get your emotions involved with them, they’ll only send you to an early grave.” He paused, trying to keep his temper in control. “You should see the mess my father has become since losing my mum to another man. I won’t be a fool like he was; and I hope you won’t be either.”
Utibe’s ears were full. He had never looked at women, or females, in the way Stanley and Okpara were showing him. His own mother was late; she died when he was seven. But with this he had just heard, he wondered how long his mother would have been faithful to his father had she lived. The stories Utibe had read in the SUN Newspaper, not to talk of the different bad news surrounding marriage only helped to strengthen his conviction that his friends were right.
“Moreover,” Stanley was saying, “we need Shade for our plan, remember?”
“You had better remember” Okpara chipped in.
“So, I advise you go out of your way to find her. Let her feel wanted. Let her feel on top for now. When the die is cast, she would know who the real boss had always been”
“Yes o!” Utibe affirmed as the boys cheered him up. He reveled in the thought of what would be if things worked out as Stanley had analysed. ‘Shade baby, I’m coming for you and when I have you, your life will never remain the same again’ he said to himself, smiling.
There was so much noise in the room. Girls had so much to talk about, especially about the group discussions. Shade, however didn’t have much to talk about. Her day had been so boring. The time she had had with Utibe the previous night had been so swell, she had looked forward to having more time with him, only to be disappointed that he didn’t seem to care so much.
‘How I just wish you would come looking for me, Utibe. You’ll be my man forever’. Those were her thoughts as Tunbosun walked in. As Tunbosun walked in, Shade noticed something for the very first time. Tunbosun was very beautiful. She wondered why she hadn’t noticed earlier. Or was there something about her at the moment that had enhanced the beauty. Shade looked carefully for any extra make-up but didn’t see. It was then, she saw it. Tunbosun was looking happy – alive.
Shade couldn’t help feeling jealous. She was sad, and now, Tunbosun who had just been bland all along was happy.
“You’re staring at me” Tunbosun said, smiling.
That took Shade unawares. She didn’t know she was staring. “Oh, I’m so sorry. You just look so different. Kinda happy”
“Really?” Tunbosun asked.
“Maybe it’s because I think I’ve met someone different.”
Shade raised a brow.
“You know I told you I would show you a real guy when I see him; a guy who would like you for who you are and not want anything in return. Remember?”
“Yeah, I do”, Shade said, wondering what her friend was up to.
“I think I may have found one such guy.” Tunbosun said, clearly delighted,
Shade sincerely wanted to be happy for her friend but jealousy was hanging somewhere in the corner of her heart. She tried to suppress the feeling, deciding to hear her friend out.
“I had just known there was something special about that guy when I saw him in my group. He was made leader, and I, his assistant. He told me I should wait for him in the dinning hall after lunch, that he was going to the hospital to visit his friend in the hospital. That girl that was rushed to the clinic this morning.”
“I see. That was nice of him.”
“I thought so too. I was really impressed.”
“What’s his name?”
“George” She answered, then continued. “Soon after lunch was over, he walked in with another guy he introduced as Uche...”
“Uche?” Shade asked, interrupting her friend.
“Yes. Average height, fair, wears glasses and rather quiet”
“He most likely is the one. I met one Uche guy today. He was sitting next to me in my group. I got to know his name only because we were told to introduce ourselves to the people sitting next to us. That was the only conversation we shared. He was so withdrawn and looked quite dull this morning.”
“He might be the same guy but this Uche was bright and smiling when I saw him”
“Whatever!” Shade said, dismissing the Uche topic.
“Okay, so when they came in, they quickly ate their food, which had been reserved for them, then they did the most tripping thing I have ever seen guys do.”
“What was that?” Shade asked, curious.
“They started packing up the plates everyone had used to eat.” Tunbosun could see that Shade too was surprised. “I had to join them, and I must confess that it was fun. Those guys are something. You should meet them.”
“That would be nice” Shade said, but as she did her mind went back to Utibe. Tunbosun had found special friends, and she was happy for her but she craved for her own Utibe. Utibe may not be like Tunbosun’s friends but she felt he was still okay. But more important was the thought that filled her mind. ‘I think I’m in love with him.’ She wished so hard that he would just walk up to her in the lecture hall and talk to her, that was all she needed and she would give him her heart…and more.
Fatima knew she had better obey God or she would regret it. Immediately, she sat up in bed, and turned slightly to face her room mate.
“Good afternoon ma.” She said but there was no response. Fatima was scared. She hoped she wasn’t too late. “Hello ma” she said louder this time. She was relieved when she saw the woman stir a little, but instead of facing her, the woman waved her off without evening turning or saying a word.
Fatima was at a loss but knew God had something in mind for Him to have urged her on to speak with the woman. Just as she was wondering how to go about it, she heard God whisper something in her ear. She didn’t understand it but she said it anyway.
“It wasn’t your fault that she died” Fatima said, and noticed that the woman went still. ‘Is she listening at all?’ Fatima asked herself. She felt a nudging to say it again. “Please believe me ma. It wasn’t your fault she died.” It was then, Fatima noticed the woman was sniffing. ‘Is she crying?’ She got her answer when the sniffs became sobs.
Fatima knew she needed to move closer but she was constrained by the drip attached to her hand. She looked at the drip stand and saw it had wheels. Perfect! She got up and wheeled it slowly towards the bed of that woman. When she got to the bed, she sat on it and placed a hand on the sobbing woman. “God took her away and now needs you to be strong. He has better plans for you.”
Fatima didn’t know where the words were coming from but she was so sure she was speaking God’s mind. She kept speaking soothing words to the sobbing woman, who was yet to face her. Over thirty minutes passed as Fatima kept speaking words to her, at a point, she leaned over and embraced the woman from behind and started praying in tongues.
Soon after she did that, the woman’s body relaxed gradually till she was eventually calm. She now turned and faced Fatima with a tear-smeared face. “Thank you” she said, barely above a whisper. “You just saved a life”. As she said that she revealed a blade that was hid in her left palm. Fatima was shocked; the message was all too clear. She looked at the woman’s right wrist and saw a little cut.
“I was about taking my life; ready to bleed to death when you said ‘It wasn’t your fault that she died’ a few moments back.”
“Who’s she?”
“My one month old baby girl; the only thing I had left in life after my husband died last month.” She answered, wiping at fresh tears that rolled down her face.
“What happened to her?” Fatima asked.
“It’s a long story, don’t bother.”
“I’m already bothered.” Fatima said smiling. “Moreover, we have the whole evening to ourselves. Why don’t you start from the beginning?”
The woman thought a while and decided to give it a try. As she opened up, Fatima’s heart soared with joy. She had just been privileged again to be an extension of God’s loving arms to a woman in need. How beautiful!

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 13)

George was seated in the hall, waiting for the afternoon session. They had been informed earlier that they would be grouped again for interactive sessions where participants were expected to both learn from, and teach, other group members special skills or abilities they possessed. As he sat, he thanked God for his appointment as leader of Group 7 earlier in the day, for his time with Fatima, and for his time with Uche and Tunbosun, his assistant, as they cleared up dishes few minutes back.
His present concern however was the girl he had spoken with in the morning. He wondered where she had disappeared to. He didn’t even know her name. He sincerely wondered if that was going to be the end of it all. He hoped against that. He felt there was still uncompleted work with her. As God had used Fatima to bring him to Christ, he felt he was God’s agent of change to that girl.
It was then he remembered he hadn’t even mentioned it to Fatima. She would have been really proud of him. He made a mental note to tell her when next he saw her. She had said she would be discharged the next day. He really hoped it was true. Taking his mind back to his friend with no name, he concluded that it wasn’t in his power to make her change. If it was God’s will to use him, God would work out the details. ‘Not my will but yours be done Lord’, was his silent resolution.
Just as he was saying that prayer, he heard someone say something and he turned to face the voice.
“Pardon?” he was saying as he looked up.
“Please, can I walk past?” the girl said. George was literarily dumbfounded. ‘God, na wa for you o!’ he thought. He had just prayed and now God had brought the girl. He stood up and made way for her to walk in. She settled for the seat next to him.
George sat back down and faced her, not so sure of what to say but knowing he had work to do. “Good seeing you again”
“Same here” she said. “Thank you so much for this morning”
“It was my pleasure. Thank God.” He paused. “I’m George” he said, extending his hand.
“I’m Tara” she said, receiving the handshake.
Deciding to make the best of the few minutes left before the session would start; he decided to refresh her on his offer. “Tara” he called with his Hausa accent.
“Are you ready to talk about it now?”
“I thought I was so sure I would tell you. Infact, that was why I looked out for you the moment I got into the hall, but I have a fear that I don’t know how to deal with.”
“What is that?” George asked, wanting to allay any fears she could possibly have about confiding in him.
She took her time before she said anything. George could only wonder what it was that bothered her so bad. Finally, Tara looked at him and said. “The last time I confided in a guy, I grew so emotionally attached to him. He knew it and took advantage of me.” Tara took a pause and looked George in the eye. “Am I going to be safe with you?”
When she had started stating her fears, George had been confident of the answer he would give her but the moment she looked into his eyes, his words got stuck in his mouth and he could hardly breath. The vulnerability in her eyes was so clear, George was afraid. But more disturbing to George was the inner fear he had that if he got himself involved with this girl, he was going to get terribly attracted to her. He had to will himself to look away from her so he could think. If he kept looking at her, he knew he wouldn’t be able to think clearly.
‘God, is it really you leading me into this? I don’t want to lose my head.’ Looking back at her, he met her eyes again and his heart pumped so hard. Knowing she was waiting for his reply, he mustered courage to respond. “You will be safe with me.”
“Thank you” she said, now smiling at him with sincere gratitude. “Thank you so much” she emphasized placing a hand on his shoulder.
That touch set George on fire. ‘I am in hot soup’ George thought to himself as he wondered how he would handle this strange feeling for Tara through the remaining days of the conference if he had to be her confidant.
Tunbosun looked away. It was all she could do to ease the pain in the heart. She wondered why she felt this hurt about what she was seeing. She felt she had no right to feel that way but that was the way she was feeling and she couldn’t help it. It was just too much to bear.
She had been so tripped with what she saw in George earlier in the day that the desire to be close to him had heightened. She felt there was a lot she could learn from the guy. On getting to the hall, she had looked out for him. When she saw him, she had started walking in his direction when she noticed a tall girl taking her seat next to him. ‘That girl has just taken my seat’ had been her thought but she had let it pass, thinking the girl was just sitting with no strings attached.
She wished she had just minded her business but she hadn’t. Looking over and again in George’s direction made her see the drama that was still bothering her. She had felt uncomfortable when the two started a conversation but that was bearable. What now sent her mind spinning was the look on that girl’s face. From her seat, she could see the girl’s face so clearly, but couldn’t see the reaction on George’s.
That girl was obviously tripping for George and it was eating Tunbosun up. She had never felt this way about a guy before. She was the one usually pushing guys away. Now, she wanted to be close to a guy and some tall, attractive and ‘shapey’ girl was about to get in her way. The final straw was when she saw the girl place a hand on his shoulder. “How dare you?” she had breathed through gritted teeth.
It was then she remembered a scripture her born-again friends used to quote about the violent getting it by force or something close to that; she couldn’t really place it but that was what she needed. She would look for ways to make sure she and George got closer. ‘George, you’re the true friend I’ve been looking for and no one will snatch you for me’, she said to herself, feeling silly but determined all the same.
“It’s action time.” Stanley said to Utibe. “Remember that this is not just for you but for me too; she’s my key to Tunbosun. Please play your cards well.”
“No wahala” Utibe replied.
“That’s my man!” Okpara affimed. “Shoot!” he added.
Utibe left his friends and walked towards the extreme right of the hall where Shade was seated alone. As he got closer, he saw her look in his direction and then quickly look away. ‘You dey front abi? Na your time be dis, my turn dey come’ he thought as he approached.
As he got to where she was, he sat next to her and just stared at her for a few minutes. He got his desired effect. She was self-conscious. He had the girl in his hands. “Baby, I’ve missed you” he said. “I could hardly do anything right today. I could think of nothing and no one else.” He reached out and touched her hand. She faced him then. “I’m falling in love with you” he added, now looking into her eyes. And what he saw in those eyes made him know he was king in the bearer’s heart.
“I missed you too but thought you weren’t interested in seeing me anymore.” She said.
“How could I? I’ll die if I do that.” Utibe was impressed with himself; he was doing a great job. It was time to hit the jackpot. “I want to prove to you how much I’ve missed you”, he said, stroking her palm lightly. “Can we meet at the back of the dinning hall after diner?”
“Why there?” she asked, with a nervous smile. He knew she knew what he was talking about. She couldn’t have been deaf to what had already started between some couples. He would indulge her again on this.
“We need a quiet place. It’ll just be me and you; no one to interrupt us. Or don’t you trust me?” he added the question just to spice up the process.
“I do. After dinner it would be then.” She said.
Utibe moved a little closer and whispered in her ears. “I love you”. She didn’t answer him but she really didn’t need to. Her body language told him she believed him and was ready to give him her body. He winked at her as he stood to return to his seat and she smiled in return.
‘I hope you’ll still be able to smile after I have my fill of you and dumped you’ he thought as he walked back to his seat, ready to update the boys on his progress.
Uche was irritated. He had just seen how that boy talked with the Shade girl that was in his morning group. He was sitting two rows back and was able to read the guy’s lips. He picked some words and could tell the guy meant no good for the girl at all. He shook his head and looked away. That was their business. He hoped the poor girl wouldn’t learn the hard way.
His major concern was the decision he was yet to make about giving his life to Christ. He had been discouraged earlier in the day but his time with Fatima in the hospital and with the George at different times had raised hope in his heart again and he was ready to give God a try.
He however needed confirmation, and felt he needed to voice it out to God. Fatima had said she would be discharged the next day. As far as he concerned, that was impossible. He looked up and shut his eyes, praying silently. ‘God, I believe you can hear my thoughts. If you heal Fatima completely and she walks into this conference ground tomorrow, I’ll serve you all my life. But if she doesn’t, you and I are finally toast.’
He wondered if God would be angry at him; seemed he was challenging God but he didn’t care. If God wanted Him, He would have to prove it. With that, Uche closed the chapter, waiting for tomorrow to come.
Fatima was tired. She had spent about two hours talking and praying with Mrs Salome. The woman, who had blamed herself for the death of her only child, was now relieved and ready to face life once again with the strength only God could give. Fatima had taken her drugs after encouraging the woman and then slept off almost immediately.
Fatima had not slept long before she bolted up, out of sleep. She was panting. She could hardly breathe. She looked at the wall clock. It was almost 5pm. She had just had the worst dream of her life. She was so frantic; she didn’t know what to do. She looked to the side wall and saw the emergency button. She pressed it over and again; that was her only hope.
‘Somebody come quickly!’ her heart pleaded, hoping she hadn’t woken up one minute late. She hardly dreamt but when she did, they came to pass; it was one of her gifts. She had to stop this one from coming to pass. “God, please have mercy. Don’t let Doctor Festus do it”, she prayed silently as she hit the emergency button again.

Written by Timilehin Adigun