Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Novella: La Conferencia (Chapter 39)

Shade had been too stunned to speak. She was indeed grateful to the organizers of the conference for such an idea; she had fun. She had been taken aback at first when she discovered that out of the eighteen of them going to UAC, thirteen of them were boys. She assumed they were there for the engineering part but was dazed to discover than ten out of them were hoping to make careers as chefs; wanting to excel in making both local and international dishes.
Speaking with them had afforded her the opportunity of knowing why they opted for this field. Many of them said they had discovered that food was a daily necessity and that Nigerians would spend money to get exquisite dishes; that’s exactly what they wanted to offer; exceptional cuisines.
She had been tripped when she heard them talk but the person that tripped her most was Okpara. He not only talked but he acted his talk. She had never seen a better cook. The staff at UAC had to call him privately and learn some recipes from him.
When she had some time with him, she had asked him how he got to know how to cook so well. Okpara had said that his mother forced him to be with her in the kitchen when he was growing up. “But at some point, I started looking forward to watching her cook. It soon became a hobby”, he had said.
Shade, for the first time in her life, had seen someone her age who loved cooking and baking more than she did. And even more profound was that she had seen someone who was better than she was. And he was a guy! What a thing! She threw her pride away and learnt from him as much as she could when they were together in the kitchen.
Since they weren’t allowed to join in the production of products like Gala; they could only watch, they were allowed on their first evening to cook for themselves and for the kitchen staff. By the time they were through, Okpara pioneering the process, the kitchen staff begged them to cook for all the staff that lived in the quarters throughout their stay. A request they gladly accepted.
Shade practically wanted to stay there. She was doing what she loved doing, and she could see her colleagues were having fun too. They had become like a family in the few hours they were together. She doubted any other group would have become has bonded as they had become in their few hours of being together.
Another thing that further bonded them was the fact that majority of them were Christians. What they experienced in their quarters was like a continuation of what had been at the meetings in the dining hall. They gathered on the two nights and two mornings they were there, including the morning of returning to the conference. They felt God all the way.
Shade was so glad that her circle of friends had just increased. There was nothing as good as having friends who love the same things you do and love God just as much as you do. That was the definition of splendid!
She couldn’t wait to see Utibe and download all the fun she had had at UAC. She hoped he had fun too.
Tired was an understatement. It felt more like exhaustion. Okpara lay face down on his bed. His sincerely wished there was no briefing; he wanted to sleep.
He had lots of fun at UAC but he had cooked and cooked. He appreciated the comments people passed about his culinary skills but it was telling on his body. He hadn’t done that much cooking in a while. He owed this ability to his mother. She wasn’t a prefect wife or mother but she had been exceptional in the kitchen and for that, he would be forever grateful to her for rubbing it off on him. Seeing his colleagues lick their hands and scrap their plates had been enough satisfaction for him.
The greatest satisfaction he received however was from the devotions they held, led by Shade. When he attended the meeting in the dining, he hadn’t seen her do anything. He assumed there were people more mature than she was in the faith. But at their quarters, she had been something else.
She was a great worship leader and an impressive teacher also. He had experienced commendable growth in his walk with God in the past two nights with the help of Shade and the other Christians that had been there. A few Muslims even joined them on the second night. It was hard to see the love of God and stay away. His love was indeed so beautiful.
Okpara had ideas prior to the conference that his culinary skills would take him far in life but with his meeting and accepting Jesus, the confidence had increased and he was getting surer with every passing day that there was a great future ahead of him in the food industry.
There was only one pain that gnawed hard at his heart. A pain he still hadn’t found the strength to talk about since the day he first mentioned it to Stanley and Utibe. It was a pain that brought fear with it. As he thought of it, he felt even weaker.
He wished he could take back the hands of the clock and undo what he did on the second day of the conference with that Christiana girl. He had lost his virtue that day and he still mourned the loss. He feared he had traded a large lump of his destiny with that singular act of that dark night.
“Oh God, please let your mercy avail for me. Please God!” he pleaded as he drifted to sleep, hoping to wake up when the whistle went for the briefing.
‘How on earth am I going to tell Shade what I did?’ Utibe asked himself. ‘She will never forgive me.’ Even as he thought this, Utibe knew he would eventually have to tell her. If he didn’t, he would never forgive himself.
‘What got into me yesterday?’ was a question he asked himself; a question he couldn’t answer. It had all started on the evening of the first day they spent at WellSpring Hospital. They had just had a courtesy visit to the Chief Medical Director. Afterwards, they were given a tour of the hospital.
When they finally settled in the ward that was temporarily converted to their lodging place, he noticed one of Shade’s friends. He guessed his name was Uche, if he remembered right. The guy was flanked by a pretty girl. Utibe couldn’t remember ever talking with her at the conference venue but something about her caught his attention.
He was staring at her and tried to justify it but knew he had no tenable reason. He diverted his eyes but found her again, and this time, he couldn’t take his eyes off. He saw the way she was looking at the Uche boy, and he wished it was him she was looking at that day.
A few moments after, a nurse came and told them another ward had been made available for the female students. The girl left and Utibe felt relieved. She was really making him lose it. They were told to settle in; dinner would be served in a few minutes.
When they got to the place they were to eat, Utibe found a seat somewhere in the middle. They were obviously not well equipped to host them but were trying their best to make available all they possibly could. The boys got there first. They had changed into comfortable clothes. Utibe looked at the Uche boy and saw he was seated on the last row at the back.
Utibe was still trying to wonder why the guy would move that back till he saw the girls were coming. As he saw them coming, his eyes caught a sight and his jaw fell; his mouth stayed opened. He had to will himself to close it. He knew he wasn’t the only one staring. ‘Didn’t any of her friends tell her something?’ he asked himself.
The girl was wearing an outfit that clearly spelt out what kind of girl she was. She revealed too much. Not the least bothered with the stares, she walked straight to the back to seat with Uche, and at that moment, Utibe started feelings things he knew he wasn’t supposed to. His thoughts went to the things he had done with Shade before God had arrested him. He indulged himself as he remembered what he did, and he just felt like feeling those sensations again.
Dinner was soon over. Boys returned to their ward-turned-room but Utibe noticed Uche didn’t return with them. It was a complete hour before the guy returned and when he did, he hit his bed straight up and slept. Utibe needed no prophet to tell him; he knew what had happened and that only made matters worse for him.
The next day, he could do nothing other than look at the girl. Even in her ward coat that she wore, she was a sight. He knew what he was doing was wrong but he just couldn’t think straight with that girl in sight.
The fire exploded when he realized that she had noticed his stares. She immediately made him know she was okay with it and even wanted it. An alarm sounded in his head immediately. He knew this was trouble; a girl that would flirt so easily with anybody was to be feared. That was what his head was telling him, but his body was responding differently.
During lunch, a neurosurgeon had come to them and asked to know those who wanted to be neurosurgeons. Uche and another boy raised their hands. He then said he would want them to watch a surgery he had to carry out that evening. As he said that, he saw Uche had mixed feelings; Utibe understood why. Happy to witness the surgery but unhappy to be away from his girl.
Utibe’s heart began to beat very fast as his mind was beginning to stray in a direction that scared him. ‘She would be free tonight. If only…’ he was still thinking it when something happened that made his head spin some more. She boldly looked sideways to where he was seated and smiled at him. Utibe was dumbfounded. He quickly diverted his eyes. ‘What did that smile mean?’ he asked himself.
By that night, when he was back on his bed, he knew what the smile had meant. Immediately after dinner, she had led him to a corner in the hospital, most likely where she had been the previous night. He was just a step away; just one step away from losing it all when it seemed God Himself slammed a hammer hard on his head. He suddenly discovered how far he had gone and what he was about to do.
“No!” he had shouted out. He knew whispering it was not enough. He needed to shout it to get enough strength to end it right there. Without caring about her pleas, he got himself together and ran away. When he got to his bed, he was practically out of breath. He went straight to his knees, and with all sincerity, he repented in tears, asking God to forgive him for his first look at the girl.
She had introduced herself as Christiana. He asked God to forgive him for all he did, and he profusely thanked God for saving him from himself just at the nick of time. He spent several moments on his knees and got up only when he now felt right with God. Since that moment, he had felt so ashamed of himself, wondering how his friend, Shade would react if and when she found out.
That was still the question on his mind as he prepared to go for the briefing. He had almost lost it all in only two days, how was he sure he would survive in his Christian faith the moment the conference was over. He really wasn’t sure but he believed that God who saved him from the previous night’s temptation would help him not to ever fall again.
God had forgiven him. He now wondered if Shade would.
Uche was upset. He didn’t know what to make of Christiana’s withdrawal. When he had become friends with her, he thought she was the replacement he needed for Fatima. She had accepted him when Fatima had rejected him. She had made him feel macho; that was exactly what he had always needed.
She had said words that first evening at the hospital that made him think she might even want to marry him. She had said, “To show you how much I love you, I am willing to give you my body right here and now. If you love me, you’ll allow me to show you how much I love you”
Those were the two sentences that had made Uche do what he did that night. It was almost as if she had pre-planned it all with how it went but Uche didn’t care then. Now, he did. By the time she saw him the next day, it was like she was just tolerating him; like she couldn’t wait to be rid of him and that bothered him greatly.
He had proposed to talk with her, but the activities of the second day had been hectic, and were further compounded when he was told to witness a surgery. And if he wasn’t mistaken, he saw a smile on her face when the doctor had made his announcement. Uche was upset and confused.
‘Did I do something that upset her or is she dissatisfied with me?’ he really didn’t know what to think anymore. They had barely spoken since that night and he feared he might lose her if he didn’t do something fast. He couldn’t lose two girls in one week. He definitely couldn’t. If he was going to lose anyone, not Christiana. He had given a part of him to her that he could never have back and he had done so because he thought they had something going for them.
‘Christiana, you said you love me. Please don’t do this to me’, was his silent plea as he hoped to win her heart back.
She was all smiles. Christiana was on top of the world. Her plans before the Career Orientation had been disturbed but things were back in order. She had nailed Uche; she had succeeded with a good Christian boy. In fact, it had almost been two. She had been so happy when she saw that another so called good boy was attracted to her. She knew the other guys were staring at her but she was just concerned about getting the good ones. His name was Utibe.
What she still didn’t understand was how he had escaped at the last minute. He was the first person she had ever seduced, and started the process with, who had escaped the final stage. She was still wondering about that but decided not to let it bother her. She had failed with Utibe. She knew that if he could have said no at that point that most felt was a point of no return, whatever power helped him would keep him from falling into her hands a second time. She wouldn’t even try a second time.
That was bad news. She won’t allow it spoil her mood. She needed to revel in her victory over Uche’s defenses. She had no business with him again; her mission was accomplished. She needed to move on. ‘I hope to still get at least two more boys before this conference is over’, she thought to herself.
Then, she remembered the tall Hausa boy that had come to invite Uche for their meeting the night before they left for orientation. ‘I’ll see if I can have that one too’, she thought to herself.
She smiled again as she remembered the look on Uche’s face in the bus when they were returning. He looked like a kid who had his ice-cream seized and was struggling hard not to cry. Christiana discovered during their orientation that he was a very intelligent guy. He really knew what he wanted to become – a good neurosurgeon.
“Sorry Uche. You can never become a neurosurgeon. I just made sure of that.” She said to herself, giggling. She was satisfied. It was time to move to the Hausa guy.
Fatima sat in the lecture hall. She was there early as her group had been dropped earlier than most other groups. The two days had been basically days of prayer for her. She had refused to eat throughout. There was no need to pray when Uche’s life was at stake.
On the first night, she had been so distraught, she didn’t pray. She just read her bible and lay on her bed. Before she slept, she had felt a nudging to pray for Uche but she just didn’t think she had enough emotional energy to get through with it. ‘I’ll take my time to pray tomorrow’, she had convinced herself.
It was the next day she took time to pray for him. The leading to pray for him wasn’t as strong as the previous night and that scared her a bit. She hoped she hadn’t let Uche down; she hope she hadn’t been sleeping when she should have been interceding for him. She discarded her fears and believed for the best.
But as she prayed for him on the second night, the picture that kept coming to her was the picture of a guy that had come to the meeting twice. She had seen him talk with Shade a couple of times. She didn’t know his name but she knew when God wanted her to pray for someone.
Fatima had gotten on her knees and began praying for the boy. She was surprised at the passion with which she was praying for him. She prayed most in tongues because she had no idea what to pray about. And she knew beyond doubts that the Spirit of God was actually praying through her.
After close to two hours, she rose from her knees and slept. She felt fulfilled, knowing her prayers definitely had made a difference in the guy’s life. Just as she closed her eyes to sleep, the first thought that bothered her came screaming again. ‘Hope my not praying for Uche last night didn’t cost him much’.
Now, still waiting for the briefing to start, she still wondered. She hoped to get all the answers she needed when she saw him. Fatima hoped she would see him soon.

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