Thursday, October 22, 2009

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 15)

Nurse Maureen was perplexed. She sincerely couldn’t understand why Fatima was so agitated.
“Calm down Fatima. I’m sure he’s okay.”
“You don’t understand. I must reach him now!” Fatima was worried. After the dream she had had, she hit the emergency button until Nurse Maureen showed up, panting. She had immediately demanded that the nurse call Doctor Festus. Confused, Nurse Maureen had done so, only to return to tell Fatima that the doctor wasn’t in the hospital premises. Fatima had demanded the nurse try his number. She tried and it was switched off. That was the last straw. Fatima was dead worried for the doctor.
“Relax! I am in control. It will all be fine,” came the familiar voice and only then could Fatima ease up a bit. ‘I’m sorry Lord for being overly worried when all I needed do was cast my cares on you’ she prayed inwardly. Even Nurse Maureen could see that the atmosphere had changed. She marveled; Fatima was just weird.
“Why do you want to see Doc? This is the umpteenth time I’m asking you”
Fatima tried to make light of it. “It’s top-secret” she said, smiling but remembering the stress she had put the nurse through, she added, “I’m so sorry for troubling you. There’s something I really need the doctor for urgently but God just told me all would be well”.
“Hope you’re not having any pains though?”
“Nothing outside the ordinary” she said, smiling.
“You’re strange you know?” the nurse asked rhetorically.
“Kinda!” Fatima said with a sheepish grin, then added. “That’s what happens when you have Jesus as a boyfriend.” She paused, put both hands on her heart, and dramatically tilted her head backwards with her eyes closed. “I’m so in love!”
Nurse Maureen couldn’t help laughing. “Maybe someday, I would feel that way about Jesus too”
“I hope so too. Your life will be worth living. Even in crisis, you’ll be at peace. It’s just so cool”
Nurse Maureen’s phone rang. She looked at the caller ID. It was her colleague at the reception; Nurse Maureen had informed her to notify her whenever Doctor Festus arrived.
“Doctor Festus just walked in”
“Thanks dear.” She said and looked at Fatima who was giving her a questioning look. “Doctor Festus is here!”
“Yipee!” Fatima exclaimed. “Please tell him I need to see him” she said then paused. “Please tell him it’s a life-or-death situation”, she added, winking.
The nurse smiled as she exited the room. Fatima smiled too. Anybody would have thought she just lied but she knew it was actually a life-or-death situation. She looked at her room mate and saw she was still sleeping. Fatima was happy the woman had found peace once again.
She sat up and started praying, as she replayed in her mind the dream that had woken her up. She needed wisdom to talk with the doctor. As she prayed, she heard the door creak. It was Doctor Festus.
“Hello dear. How are you doing?” he asked as he approached. “Nurse Maureen told me it’s urgent. You look quite okay”. He sat down.
“I’m not the patient this time around sir. It’s an emergency involving another patient.”
The doctor looked back towards the other patient and saw she was sound asleep. He faced Fatima with a bemused look.
“Who’s the patient?” he asked.
“I’m looking at him, sir”
“Who?” he paused, trying to understand. “Me?”
“Yes doc. You”
Doctor Festus was beginning to wonder if Fatima was suffering some side effects from the drugs.
Fatima guessed what he was thinking. “I’m very okay sir” she said, patting the side of her head, and doing a thumbs-up. That elicited a smile from the doctor’s face but didn’t clear his doubts.
Fatima’s look gradually changed into a sober one as she remembered the message she had to pass across. “Please don’t do it!” She said with so much pain in her words. Doctor Festus looked at her, really worried. He hoped she wasn’t going off balance.
He reached out to touch her. “Are you okay dear?”
She held his gaze, eyes now filling. “Please don’t kill that baby”
At that, he withdrew his hand, and studied her thoughtfully. “What baby?”
Fatima swiped at a tear that had found its way out of her eye. “That unborn child.” As she said it, she saw the look on his face and knew she had hit him below the belt. “I had a dream,” she continued. “There were many dead babies. Most painful was the bodies that had been severed heartlessly. There was so much blood. I was full of both sorrow for the aborted babies and anger at the perpetrators of such an act. It was then I saw a gloved hand about to start another abortion. The teenage girl was lying on the bed, waiting for the procedure to commence.
“Angry and wishing I could do something to stop it; I looked at the face of the doctor. I was dumbfounded. It was you.” She paused and looked at him. His face was down. “It was you, Doctor Festus. I was so distraught, I couldn’t move. It was then I woke up and knew I had to stop you from doing it to that girl.”
Fatima wondered why his head was still down and why he wasn’t saying anything. “Doc, please talk to me.”
When he lifted his head, Fatima saw what she had never seen in a man’s eyes. She saw tears glistering on the surface, waiting to flow out. “I have been haunted for the past five months.” The pain was so much he bowed his head again and the tears flowed out then.
Fatima reached out and touched his shoulder. “It’s okay sir. What happened?”
“Two years back, my doctor friend who I respected so much told me how he was making big extra pay. He lived large and I knew it wasn’t his salary footing those bills. He took me to an abortion clinic, somewhere on the outskirts of this state. When I knew where I was, I told him clearly that I could never do it.
“Two weeks after, my wife had to do a surgical operation abroad, and I needed some more money to pay the bill. That was how it all started. I made so much money from the clinic but I had no peace of mind. But something happened five months ago.” He looked at Fatima, unashamed as tears flowed down his cheeks.
“Something happened that has caused me sleepless nights and days of horror.” He wiped his face. “I got to the clinic this Wednesday. By the way, I used to go there Wednesdays and Fridays. When I got there, I had just finished with a rookie prostitute who wanted the pregnancy aborted. The moment I ushered her out of the room, the next girl came in, and for the first time in my one year plus of doing it, I met a girl who said she didn’t want to do the abortion. All others had come of their own volition.
“She said her boyfriend had told her to do it and she refused but said when her mother found out she was pregnant, she literarily dragged her to the abortion clinic.” Doctor Festus shook his head. “‘Please doctor, I don’t want to have this abortion’ she told me that day, weeping hysterically. ‘As a Christian, I know what I did just once with my boyfriend was wrong but I know this would be worse. I’ve hurt God enough’, she had said. On a normal day, I would have told her it was okay and would have asked her to leave and possibly counsel the mother on accepting the situation.
“However, I was so money crazy on that day, as every abortion brought me twenty thousand naira. So, the more I did on a day, the better for me. I convinced her it was okay. I lied to her telling her I was a Christian too; I claimed to be a deacon. I also assured her there would be no complications and she would never regret it. As I was saying all these, I knew I was lying to her but I didn’t care.
“She asked about the pain and I told her not to worry about it. I assured her that I was a very good doctor – I guess that was the only truth I said to that young girl.” He paused. “As I began preparing, she started whimpering until the anesthesia got the better of her. When I was through, and she woke up, remembering what she had come for, she began crying profusely again. Weeping uncontrollably, she stood up and looked in the direction of the fetus. My eyes followed her gaze. She then looked at me and at that moment, I knew I was a monster. Her look, the sight of the fetus and her sobs on that day have haunted me ever since.”
The room was so quiet as Doctor Festus made his confession. Fatima could visualize the horror the young girl must have faced that day and even afterwards.
“I have only been to that clinic once after that,” he continued “and it was to see if I could get the girl’s address so I could apologize to her for making her do what she didn’t want to do but I was told they couldn’t divulge that information to me. That was the beginning of my nightmares. Now, I hear screams of girls and see animated fetuses haunting me. It has been terrible. I even tried killing myself once but it didn’t work out.”
Doctor Festus looked at Fatima and saw she was feeling his pain. They were both with wet faces. “Now I have money, and some fame but I’m barely living.” He looked intently at Fatima. “Seeing you when you were rushed in and hearing you tell me what you did a few hours back, hope was restored in me for the first time in a very long time. Do you know what?”
“What?” Fatima asked.
“My wife and children don’t even have a clue about any of these things I’m telling you. Maybe God indeed brought you here because of me, and I feel so awed.” He said and buried his face in his hands.
“But if we confess our sins to God, He will keep His promise and do what is right: He will forgive us our sins and purify us from all our wrongdoing.” Fatima said. “That’s God’s word. All you need do is confess these sins to God, and propose in your heart not to do them again, and God will forgive you; making you new and whole altogether.”
“I wish it were that easy” Doctor Festus said.
“It is that easy sir. Jesus died in our place, taking our sins on Himself. He only needs you to come to Him and receive His righteousness in place of your sins.”
“But that doesn’t undo the wrongs I’ve done. I can’t give those girls and women their children back.” he argued.
“That’s true and you need to settle that in your heart. You can’t undo the past but you can prevent it from ruining your present and future. As for the abortion victims, you could pray that God will reach them and heal their emotions. And if you meet any of them, you could apologize to them. That’s the best you can do sir. Don’t let the devil eat you up with guilt. Jesus became guilty so you could be innocent. Just receive Him into your life and run away from sin henceforth.”
“Sounds too good to be true, Fatima.”
“That’s my boyfriend for you”, she said, smiling through her tears. “He’s just so tripping.”
Without Fatima saying more or inciting him, Doctor Festus knelt beside her bed. “Please pray for me”
“I would be glad to do so”, she said. “But you’ll need to talk to Him yourself first.”
“Okay” he said, and began confessing his many sins to God. He prayed in tears and as he did that he could literarily feel burdens of his past lift off him. Fatima knelt beside him and strengthened his faith as he continued pouring his heart out to his maker and saviour.
As Fatima heard him pray, she had a strong sense of peace and knew she had accomplished God’s purpose for her being in the hospital. It was time to return to her folks at the conference. One day had seemed like a year to her. She missed them badly.
“That’s the one I will have tonight”
“Stanley, just like that? You haven’t even spoken with her yet” Okpara said. Looking at the girl again, he added. “Isn’t she the girl from Utibe’s school that danced last night?”
“Yes, she is, Utibe told me a little about her. Her name is Faith.”
“You’re sure many guys are not on her already?”
“I have my ways.” Stanley said. Dinner was almost over and it was time to act. Utibe was already seated with Shade, preparing for their escapade. “It’s show time. I’ll see you in the hall”. After dinner was the only convenient time for escapades as facilitators and group leaders ate then. Any other time was either during the day or a time when they would be closely monitored, and that wouldn’t do.
Okpara watched as Stanley walked to where Faith was seated. There was another girl talking with Faith when he got there but Okpara noticed that after a few minutes of talking to both girls, the other girl left them, laughing. Okpara was still a virgin but was addicted to pornography and masturbated. He had been told it was wrong to do both but he didn’t care. His brother was a faithful Christian and lived a clean life. He secretly admired his brother but felt he had gone too far to turn back. He had found it hard however to do the real thing, wondering if any girl will allow him.
But as he saw the Faith girl jell easily as Stanley talked with her, his desire to have the physical experience mounted. He remembered his brother’s words to him one day when they discussed fornication. His brother had quoted from the bible, saying ‘Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant’. His brother had said the enjoyment was very temporal and the suffering eternal.
He had been sober that day but had finally returned to his vomit. Now seeing Stanley’s exploits, and Utibe’s progress with Shade, he felt he had nothing to lose. He was going to try it out. He looked round, hoping to see any girl that looked like she was approachable. He didn’t have to look too far. Two tables from him was a pretty girl and she was actually staring at him.
Okpara couldn’t believe his fortune. He had gotten a far better bargain than he had planed for. He looked away and looked back. She was still looking at him. She then smiled, and Okpara was momentarily lost, admiring her. It was like she was calling him over.
He stood from where he was and walked over to her. As he got closer, he almost turned back. It seemed too good to be true. She was making some body movements that made him uncomfortable. It was like she knew what had been on his mind and was as ready as he was. ‘Is it this easy to have girls?’ he asked himself as he sat beside her. Sitting beside her made him see things he hadn’t noticed from afar. Her second button was loosened and her skirt was short.
“I’m Christiana” she said extending her hand, even before Okpara said anything. Okpara accepted the handshake and noticed she let it linger as she held his gaze with the most enticing look Okpara had ever seen.
When she let go of his hand, she spoke up. “I’m lonely and I need a guy”.
Okpara was dumbfounded. If someone else had told him about this, he would have said it was a lie. She was actually the one making the moves on him; a guy she had never met in her life. It was a sickening thought for Okpara that a girl would make herself that cheap, but for the sake of what he wanted to achieve that night, he put his sentiments aside.
“I have been watching you for a few minutes and I just know you’re my guy” she said. It was at this point Okpara began to get scared. He wondered if the girl was okay. He didn’t expect this kind of behavior from any girl at the conference. It seemed just too much. He was contemplating standing up and running for his dear life; he felt such things only happened in home videos when a witch wanted to seduce a pastor or something. She was actually begging and throwing herself at him.
As if she could read his mind, she said, “Don’t think I’m a cheap girl, I just need someone to love me.”
Okpara wasn’t still convinced. Just then, she placed a hand on his hand, pleading with her beautiful eyes. “Please don’t go away. I need you badly!”
As she said those words, with her eyes holding him bound and her hand setting him on fire, Okpara knew he was stuck with this Christiana girl. His heart beat fast with a combination of two strong emotions; excitement and fear.

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