Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 36)

The Career Overview by Dr. Mrs. Asuquo of the University of Calabar had been quite interesting. After her one-hour speech, participants were given the opportunity to ask questions and they asked lots of them. It was obvious many students were still in the blues as to what career to pursue.
Many where toeing lines that their parents had either coaxed or actually coerced them into. It was an eye-opener for majority of them. A few, through the short talk got to identify new career opportunities available to them that they had no clue about prior to that time. It was a worth-while talk and Tara was so glad she was there.
It was now time to hear the names of the students going to what institution. The Conference Director started with those who would be going to the Governor’s office. He said such people were those with careers that were politically inclined.
Tara knew she was in that category. More important to her was the conversation she had once had with George, when he casually stated that he would want to be a politician so he could right the wrongs in the society. Now she hoped with all her heart that she would be put in the same institution as he.
Just as she was thinking it, she heard her name being mentioned.
“…Omotara Omoba, Ahmed Abubukar,…” the CD was announcing.
Now, she knew she was bound for the governor’s office. Was George going to be with her? That was the only question left on her mind. With every new name mentioned her temperature rose. The tension increased as she saw the director was getting to the end of the list.
“Chinenye Friday, and…”
The CD had one more name to call, and he seemed not to be able to tell what name it was as he called a colleague to help him. He was just doing his work, taking his time, while Tara in the audience couldn’t wait to hear what name he was going to mention.
“George Ahmadu” the CD said as he put the paper aside and picked another. He had just made someone’s day.
Tara’s face was all smiles after she heard the name called. It was all she could do from shouting. She was indeed very happy. She looked forward to the two days she would spend with George at the Governor’s office.
As she looked forward to it, she suddenly became wary. She longed to become closer to George in terms of friendship but she feared otherwise. She remembered her fears the very first time she had talked with George, and those fears re-appeared. ‘Am I sure that with two days exclusive with George without our other friends, I will not lose my heart to George in a precarious way as I did to Douglas.’ She was still musing on that when an unbidden fear added itself to her plight. ‘Am I sure George has recovered fully from his challenge? If he hasn’t, will he want more from me than I can offer?’
These were questions she had no answers to; questions she dreaded with every bit of her heart.
She would have felt horrible if not that she had come to terms with the fact that she could not always have what she wanted. She couldn’t do anything about the fact that George was not going to be in the same place with her but she wondered at a sight that had caught her attention.
She had heard Tara’s name being mentioned earlier. So, when George’s name was mentioned, she looked over at Tara and saw her smile in a way that spoke volumes. ‘I never knew Tara liked George this much’, she thought to herself. “I wish them both the best”, She said to herself, sincerely.
In the past five days of the conference, she had had time to think and she was beginning to get the opinion that marriage might not actually be for everybody. She had not come to any conclusion yet; she was only considering it.
The CD had mentioned a few other organizations and those going there. He then called the name of the next institution; Government Technical College, Trans Amadi. At that point, Tunbosun knew her name was probably going to be called as she sought a career in education.
Her name was the fifth name mentioned. Soon after, she heard Faith’s name. That was a good one; she had so much to learn from Faith, especially pertaining her walk with God. Close to the end, she heard a name she hadn’t even expected; Stanley.
‘I’ll run away from that guy like I would a rabid dog’, she thought to herself. Little did she know that the rabid dog was at the verge of change and needed a helping hand; without which he was doomed for misery.
A part of Shade rejoiced that she wasn’t going to have to see Stanley day in day out, but she lamented inwardly for her friend, Tunbosun who would be stuck with him. She only hoped it would be the sober Stanley she spoke with in the morning that would surface at the school they were going, not the cruel, lustful one.
She didn’t bother to hope Utibe would be in her group because they were on opposing lines. He wanted to be a Dentist, and she wanted to be a Professional Caterer. Her elder sister, studying at Obafemi Awolowo University had told her there was a course like Home Economics there where she could sharpen and professionalize her culinary skills. She had been so happy to hear that then; she was bent on being the best chef in Nigeria.
After a few other industries had been called, The CD mentioned OK foods and started calling out the names. She thought her name would be called but it wasn’t. The next was UAC foods. It was then her name was mentioned. The only other person she knew in her group was Okpara. She was surprised when she heard his name. She guessed he wanted to study Food Science Technology or something similar; something manly.
She remembered the stories Tunbosun told her of how Okpara had pestered her so much in school for a relationship but she had refused and how he had planned on several occasions to humiliate her without success. Shade now replayed the words Utibe had told her earlier in the day about Okpara’s salvation. They were two contrasting pictures. That transformation could only come from God, and she was indeed happy for Okpara. She hoped to be a source of encouragement to him while together at UAC.
She turned to face Utibe who was sitting next to her. “Don’t miss me o!”
“I’ll try” he said, then added, winking. “Take care of my friend for me o!”
Shade shoved him playfully. “I don’t know about that o!”
Utibe laughed it off, knowing he could trust his friends Shade and Okpara. He returned his attention to the platform, waiting to know where he would be assigned for the next two days.
If there was ever a time she needed desperately for luck, as she believed, to work for her, it was now. Christiana hadn’t bothered on previous occasions to know what career Uche was hoping to pursue because she really didn’t care. But when the announcement was made that they would be doing Career Orientation, it was the first question she asked him.
He had said he wants to be a doctor, and she had been overly excited as she had put Nursing in her form at the start of the conference. She had put nursing, not because she really wanted to be a nurse, because she didn’t but it was the first thing that came to her mind to write. And now, she congratulated herself for being lucky. Her classmates in school, majority of who were Christians, would always say it’s not luck but God’s favour. She didn’t agree. Luck was luck.
She hoped luck would be on her side again. So far so good, two hospitals had been mentioned and neither she nor Uche’s name had been mentioned. Now, the CD was calling names of people that would be in another hospital. She didn’t care to listen to the name of the hospital; all she was concerned about was being in the same place with her prospective trophy. She had worked so hard and sacrificed so hard to get him, she only hope fate would agree with her.
“Christiana Mark”, her heart caught as she heard her name but she didn’t have to wait three seconds long as the second name after hers was the name she had longed for. “Utibe Edet, Uche Nwokocha…”
The CD continued his list but she didn’t care anymore. Luck was on her side. She turned to Uche, who was to her left and gave him that smile that guys only saw in Hollywood movies; that I-can’t-live-without-you smile. The smile accomplished its mission as Uche smiled in return. She could see he wanted to be with her too. Having sometime alone with Uche was all she had ever wanted since she laid eyes on him. Now, she was going to have two whole days and nights too. It was too good to be true.
‘How dare anyone say there’s no luck!’ she thought, smiling. She gave Uche another smile, and as she did, her plans for the two days began coming together immediately.
‘You’ll leave with me this afternoon a boy but you will return as a man and your life will never be the same again’. She thought to herself, smiling. ‘Only God Himself could possibly resist the package I have for you, Uche, even angels would fall if they were in your shoes. You are mine’. She would allow the next two days tell the story.
Fatima had cried immediately after the brief talk they had had in the dining hall after breakfast. The tears had come immediately she reached her room. She was aching for her friend, Uche. She loved him as a friend and brother, not in any romantic sense; and it felt pure and right but she hated what he was allowing that girl do to him.
Still in tears, she prayed so hard that God would capture his heart somehow, hoping by any chance she or another friend of theirs would be in the same group with him. But after hearing the names that had just been called, it felt like a whole weight of lead had been placed on her heart. She could hardly breathe. It felt like she was seeing her close friend being led to the slaughter with his eyes closed and she was powerless to do anything about it.
She knew he wouldn’t even listen to her if she even tried to talk with him. She had never known that her heart could bleed this much. She hated to imagine what plans that girl had for Uche. Two nights alone with that girl? Fatima was scared.
She knew the only thing left for her to do was to pray for him, and that she would do. She half-heartedly listened to the other lists the CD read. The only point she paid attention was when she heard her name mentioned. She was to go to the Rivers State Television station. She noticed she was the only one whose name in that list she knew.
Feelings of rejection wanted to creep into her heart again. These were strange feelings to Fatima and she knew she wasn’t supposed to give in to them. She discarded the thoughts and reminded herself that God loved her and was working all things together for her good, even if she didn’t understand how it would all turn out.
“Lord, please make me a blessing to those I would be staying with for these two days and let me get lost in your love during these two days”, she prayed. After a brief pause, she added with so much pain in heart. “And please save Uche from that girl’s tricks; open his eyes to see the truth.”
With that she let things be, trusting God desperately to make things work out fine for them all.
The parking lot was filled to capacity. Several luxury buses were parked, waiting to convey participants to their respective organizations. They were there with representatives from their institutions. One after the other, they began driving off with the students. It was a new experience for the hosting organizations and they were clearly excited about it; was another way of offering some help to the building of the future leaders of the nation.
Unknown to both the conference organizers and even the hosting organizations, the two days of Career Orientation were two days that would change the stories of some of the students forever. Some for good; some for bad.

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