Monday, June 14, 2010

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 29)

Fatima was the last to share her testimony and she did with much joy. It had been a successful meeting and she was grateful to God for it. She rounded up the meeting telling the folks gathered that it was going to continue the next day, asking them to bring their friends along. She then told them that those who needed someone to talk with; who needed to let out some burdens, should wait behind.
She was impressed at the number of students who waited behind. Just about three students left immediately after. One of them was the fair girl that had sat beside Uche during the meeting. Fatima knew the presence of God had disarmed her. She only hoped that the seeds sown in the girl’s heart would germinate and bring forth much fruit.
She had about three students wanting to talk with her. Others also had students waiting their turns to talk with them. It was a beautiful sight. They hurried through with the counseling because it was getting late and they didn’t want to attract unnecessary attention from the organizers of the conference.
She soon signaled the end of the counseling session and the invitees began to leave, most with smiles, and some still in tears. She hadn’t expected anything less. When God met a man, that man could never remain the same again. That was what had happened when she met Jesus, and that was what was happening to the students that filed out of the dining hall. They had had an encounter with Christ, and their lives would be changed forever.
She smiled, content.
They gathered together to say a final prayer and Shade was asked to pray. After she was done praying, as if planned, the other six took turns in hugging her. She had shared her almost-rape experience when she told her story but she hadn’t gone in-depth but it was still news to the others. They whispered different words of encouragement into her ears as they embraced her.
Fatima noticed that about five girls had waited to talk with Shade after the meeting. She was sure they had had rape experiences too. Only God knew the burdens and secrets many more still bore; there was still a lot of work to be done.
They all exited the hall, relishing the success of the first meeting.
Uche was walking ahead of her and he seemed to be slowing his pace. Fatima understood what was happening. She smiled. He was waiting for her to catch up, wanting to get his reply. She couldn’t blame him; it was high time he did.
“Uche”, she called when she got closer to him.
He turned and looked at her trying hard to act normal. She wasn’t fooled but decided to play along. If he was acting like he wasn’t waiting for her answer, she would tag along that line. It would definite make it more interesting.
She smiled, now walking with him. “Hope you had fun today?” she asked, casually.
“Yeah, I sure did. You were great”, he said, smiling at her.
“And so were you”, she said, then paused. “God was da bom, right?”
“Yep.” Uche nodded. “Was my first time having such an experience; I actually spoke in tongues today”, he said. His voice echoed his excitement.
“I’m so glad for you. Hope you’ll not stop praying in tongues?”
“I wouldn’t dare. I felt new when I did.”
They walked in silence a while.
Still not wanting to go to the crux of the issue yet, Fatima decided to stall Uche’s response a little more. “Did you see our friend tonight?” She asked, wearing a mischievous grin.
Uche smiled, not because he understood what she was talking about but because it was always fun being around Fatima. “Which friend?” he asked.
“Your friend that likes you”
He was still wide-eyed and yet smiling.
She stopped, and Uche took the cue. She faced him, and did an akimbo stance. “That girl”, she said and saw the understanding in his eyes. She giggled and poked him. “Seems she likes you”
He shook his head. “I sincerely hope not. The moment I saw her walk towards us, I was scared and it became worse when she felt sitting beside me was her best option”
“Don’t you know girls would want to sit near you? You’re a fine boy” Fatima said, and saw Uche was taken aback by her statement. He seemed dumbfounded for a moment. She wondered what was going through his mind.
“You really think so?” he asked, looking rather serious.
Fatima knew right then than Uche’s self-esteem still had a long way to go. The moment was getting too serious; too emotion-laden. She needed to say something to lighten the mood. “At least you’re finer than the CD” she said, and burst into laughter.
Uche couldn’t help laughing. That was a good one. The comments that students had made about the Conference Director’s looks were enough to fill a 40-leaves exercise book. The man was not too favoured in looks; to say it nicely.
They had momentarily forgotten about their discussion of the girl, and Fatima knew it would be anti-climax to go back there. It was time to talk about what both of them had been waiting for. It had been pending for the past twenty-four hours. If she waited any moment longer, she was sure she wouldn’t have the courage to tell him again.
“Thank you for the letter”, she said, suddenly.
Uche was surprised at the quick change in topic but seemed relieved at the same time that they had finally gotten to that point.
“You’re the first person ever to write me such a letter” She saw he doubted her. “Seriously. I wouldn’t lie. And for that, I’m grateful. It’s a letter I’ll cherish for a long time.”
Looking at his face, she could tell he was as nervous as she was. She was going to say it as it came to her lips.
“I was happy when I read it. Every line appealed to me.” She paused. It was time to end the suspense. “I would have loved to say a yes but I can’t”, she said and could immediately see the change in expression on his face. She had expected it but it was still hard all the same. She needed to continue. The sooner she got over with it, the better.
“Starting a relationship with you will spoil everything we share and enjoy as friends. You might think it would foster our closeness.” She shook her head. “It would rather make it go down the drain. We aren’t mature enough to handle a relationship.”
She didn’t like the look on his face but she couldn’t help it. “If we were about seven years older, all I would have done was to pray about it; a yes would have been sure but there is so much we don’t know about life. Secondary school relationships don’t last because emotions get involved. And even if the couple is lucky enough to escape having sex with each other they would have hurt themselves so bad emotionally. Some even live with the emotional or physical scars for the rest of their lives.”
She paused. “I made this decision for our good.” She reached out to touch his shoulder. “Hope you understand”, she said.
He didn’t respond. He just stared at his feet. She could understand his pain. She liked him very much but she knew that was where it ended; it couldn’t be more than that. The best they could offer themselves at their age was true godly friendship; that was what they needed and that was she could offer him. She desperately hoped he would eventually understand.
“Uche, are you okay?” she asked.
He nodded without a word. After a minute of silence, he spoke up for the first time since she had told him her answer. “Good night, Fatima”
“Good night Uche” she said as she watched him turn and walk towards his hostel. Her heart went after him. She wanted to run, catch him, turn him around and scream a yes for all to hear but she knew it would be the worst decision of her life. He had everything that she knew was okay; he was a Christian, a caring boy and a very fine boy, to top it up but there was one barrier; one she knew very well. The time constraint.
It was wrong timing. Now was the time for them to focus on God, their academics and developing their talents; not a time to expend energy on emotions. It was this mistake many boys and girls made that made them have many regrets in the future. She preferred to endure the pain now and wait patiently to enjoy a wonderful marriage and career in the future than enjoy a fleeting relationship now and bite her fingers for the rest of her life.
“God, please let Uche understand”, she prayed as she turned to go to her hostel.
Christiana smiled. She couldn’t have asked for more. She had been restless after leaving the dining hall and had been unable to return to her hostel. She chose to hang around the dining for no reason in particular. After over thirty minutes she saw people walk out of the dining hall. She assumed the counseling session was over.
She had waited a few more minutes before the Igbo chap walked out. He had been alone till his short Hausa friend joined him. They and their friends had been simply enchanters. It was like they had bewitched everyone that came for their meeting. She wondered how they had so much power.
She watched in resentment as the two friends seemed to be chatting and laughing. She noticed however that the mood suddenly became sober. She was very excited about that. The boy, her target seemed to be unhappy about what the girl was saying. The conversation seemed to end on a soar note, the two parting rather sadly.
They were sad. But she was happy. There was no better time to catch a guy that in his moment of despair. She had always heard people tell the story of Samson and Delilah. She remembered them saying one of the reasons Delilah was able to get Samson that day was because he was exhausted; he had been tired.
Now, her Igbo friend looked tired; emotionally exhausted. He would definitely be looking for a distraction come tomorrow; something to make him happy.
Christiana grinned. She would be there for him. She would be there to make him happy. And afterwards, he would be sorry for the rest of his life. The day had not turned out too badly afterwards. Christiana stood from the stone she had been sitting on and headed for her hostel.
She would use all known seduction skills to get the Igbo boy to fall.
Faith was practically running. “George!” she called.
He turned.
She reached him, panting. Since she had seen what she saw during the meeting, she had not been able to take her mind off it. She had to talk to him. She only hoped he would be humble and sincere enough to open up to her.
“Can I talk with you a while?” She could see the impatience in his gestures.
“I have to hurry to the hostel.”
“Please, I won’t take your time.”
He frowned. “I have to use the toilet. Please let’s make it tomorrow.” George said, turned and started jogging towards his hostel, without waiting for any response from her.
She knew he had just lied to lie. It was written all over his face. As she watched him go, she knew exactly why he was in a hurry to go to the hostel. The vile thing she had seen had taken possession of his mind and was pushing him to do what he really didn’t want to do but had no power to stop. At present, he was at best a controlled-dummy.
George shook his head as he approached the hostel entrance. It was already dark but the lights in front of the hostel lit up the area. He had wanted so bad to stop and listen to what Faith wanted to say. He had been surprised at first that she wanted to talk with him, that only confirmed to him that it had to be something important.
But something told him that if he waited to talk with her, he wouldn’t be able to do what he still wanted to do that night. He had whet his appetite so much with his thoughts and imaginations he couldn’t imagine backing out. Anything she wanted to say would have to wait till the next day.
He was going to look at that magazine again; and he was sure other things would follow. Things he hated to do, but knew he had given himself to. There was no turning point. At least, so he thought.
They had been standing there a few minutes, talking. Utibe had told Shade how much he had enjoyed the meeting. He had also told her how proud he was of her that she had in a short while being able to talk about what she had gone through. It was time to go and he had to quickly tell her other things he had planned to tell her.
“I gave my life to Christ today” he said, smiling.
“But there was no altar call” she said, surprised, yet excited.
“With today’s meeting” he said, “I didn’t need an altar call to do what I had to do. Right there on my knees in worship, I gave my heart to Christ. Different things I had heard at different times about the love of Jesus just came flooding my heart. I couldn’t hold back. It was the moment and I felt it with every bone in my body. I’m so glad I came”
“I’m glad you came too.” Shade said.
There was a very short silence. “Are you going to report him?” Utibe asked.
Shade knew who he was referring to. She had thought of it at different times through the day and she had come to a conclusion. “I’ll let him be.”
Utibe was surprised at her decision. “Don’t you think you’ll be exposing other girls to the risk of being raped too?”
“I thought so too but I concluded Stanley would be a complete fool if he tried it again. I’m sure he won’t.”
“I hope you’re right”
Shade smiled. They both knew the conversation was over and they needed to leave but both of them just stood there staring at each other. Shade diverted her eyes first and turned to leave.
“Thanks for still having me as a friend” Utibe said. “It means the world to me”
Shade turned, heart soaring in gratitude to God for making things turn out fine eventually. “Thank you too for being my knight in my night of distress.”
“Nice rhyme.” Utibe said with a smile.
“Thanks”, Shade said returning his smile. “Good night, Utibe”
“Good night, Shade.” He said, and watched her walk towards her hostel. When she was out of sight, he turned and headed for his own hostel. With a smile on his face.

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