TUNDE WOKE UP startled; he was glad that it was a dream. He got up from his bed and went on his knees; he prayed for Dupe and put her in the hands of God. He prayed against the spirit of shame in her life. Then he asked God for direction on what he should do next. He knew he had to talk to Dupe and warn her, there was great urgency in his spirit. He decided to wait until when they would be returning from night prep as that day was a Friday and there would be class fatigue after night prep which had become a custom in Balm of Gilead Secondary School ever since Elder Mrs. Giftie Ayobami became the Principal of the school.
Students were expected to clean up their classes arrange their lockers. After the cleaning and when every student was in the hostel, the Principal would go round to inspect the classrooms and lockers and then on Monday morning, she would announce the neatest class and the neatest locker owner, a reward was always attached to it. The dirtiest class and most untidy locker also got their punishment.
Tunde prayed for wisdom, picked up his bible and began to study. He could not shake off the urgency in his spirit and still struggled to hold on to his resolve about the female species he had formed years ago.
DUPE WOKE UP and stretched on her bed. She had dozed off while praying. She looked at her wrist watch and what she saw made her jump. It was 6:30pm and she needed to be at the dining hall for 7:00pm. She ran to the bathroom, had a quick shower, hurriedly dressed up and as she was finishing her make up, the bell rang. Just as she opened her door, she saw Chioma standing there about to knock her head which was supposed to be the door if she had not opened it.
“What on earth have you been doing in there all day?” Chioma asked with a frown. “I came by your room several times and kept knocking, I was almost worried”
“I am so sorry, I dozed off while I was praying” Dupe replied
“When did you become such a heavy dozer?” Chioma asked
“Never mind my dear; I must have been so tired. Let’s hurry for dinner before we are late” replied Dupe locking her door.
They both entered the dining hall and went to their tables. Dupe was not on duty that day, so she could seat on the table comfortably. Some of the other prefects were already seated by the time she got to the table. In Balm of Gilead, there were several prefects and they made up the student representative body. They were the eyes of the authorities among the students; ensuring students did not break the rules.
Dupe looked across the dining hall as the head boy who was the prefect on duty tried to calm the students and make them settle down for dinner, she was glad she wasn’t in his shoes as they could be so noisy and annoying. Just then, she spotted the SS1 girl she had seen that afternoon staring at her. At first, she was surprised, and then she signaled to the girl to come. Her eyes followed the girl as she came closer. Then she took the girl’s hand and led her outside the dining hall.
“Good evening Senior Dupe” the girl said rather shyly
“Good evening, how are you?” Dupe replied.
“Fine, thank you”
“What is your name?” Dupe asked
“You are in SS1 right?”
“You are in Peace house right?”
“Yes” Vivian replied.
“Alright then,” Dupe started, “I want you to come to my room after class fatigue toady, before lights out ok! I want us to have a little chit chat, okay?”
“No problem” Vivian replied with a shy smile.
Dupe sent her back into the dining hall and lingered outside for a while. She did not know why, but she felt so drawn to Vivian. She said a silent prayer and entered the dining hall.
Meal times in Balm of Gilead were always full of surprises, as there was no time table for food; they just sprang up surprise delicacies. This time, the students were served Jollof Rice with chicken and a cup of tea each. The students were obviously happy.
After dinner, everyone left with smiles on their faces for night prep. The junior students were so delighted, it was written all over their faces. The senior students on the other hand curtailed their excitement as it was believed that as a senior student, there are some certain things you should not show in public as it would be embarrassing and ‘de-reping’ as they referred to it. A senior student once showed over excitement over a meal of Eba and Ogbono soup and ever since that day, he had been tagged ‘Eba man’.
Dupe and Chioma, in respect to that norm whispered their excitement over dinner as they walked to class for prep. “That dinner was the bomb” Chioma said
“You can say that again girl” Dupe replied
“I wonder what will happen tomorrow morning” Chioma said “Maybe we will have chicken and chips” She added.
“In your wildest dreams my dear” Dupe replied laughing.
Chioma changed the topic to something entirely different. She had been looking for something to use to get to Dupe. She was still bent on setting the all too good Dupe up.
“I wonder who our newest couple will be tonight”
“That should not be a problem my dear Chioma! You will know after class fatigue tonight” Dupe replied.
Dupe was so careful with her words and this annoyed Chioma. Dupe always chose her words carefully and she almost never made a slip. Chioma was silent till they reached the SS3 class block.
FRIDAY NIGHTS WERE usually special in Balm of Gilead as new couples emerged on Friday nights and people were always on the lookout for any boy and girl that would walk to the hostel together after the class fatigue. This made Tunde very nervous when he thought of what he had to do that night. Again, as the president of the fellowship, he wondered what people would think. Just then, he spotted Dupe and Chioma coming, he put his fears aside and approached them.
“Hi ladies” he said, smiling. “I believe you enjoyed your meal tonight.”
“Yes” the girls chorused.
Then almost as if he could not wait to say it, he turned to Dupe. “Can I walk you to the hostel tonight? I have something very important to discuss with you”
Dupe was shocked; she looked at Chioma who mirrored her own look. She looked back at Tunde, waiting for an explanation, but he offered none.
“Please, can’t it wait?” Dupe asked with a pleading tone “Why tonight?”
“Dupe, it is very important, it cannot wait” Tunde said. He was beginning to look nervous. “Enjoy your prep”, he said and walked away quickly before he had a chance to change his mind.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Dupe asked Chioma.
“How?” Chioma asked. “Are you not the one Pastor Tunde just finished talking to? What did I tell you this afternoon after fellowship?”
“Please Chioma, don’t start that topic now! I believe whatever he has to say is about fellowship matters ok!” Dupe said turning away and walking towards her class.
“Whatever” Chioma retorted “Time will tell” Then she followed Dupe into the class.
Dupe could not concentrate on the quadratic equation she was trying to solve, she kept imagining what Pastor Tunde wanted to discuss with her.
Why on earth did he pick a Friday night to walk me to the hostel? Is he really in love with me? Can Chioma’s assumptions possibly be right? What should I tell him if he asks me out?
Dupe kept thinking. She knew if she continued to think she would not achieve anything that night. Her heart became a racer on the field; she bowed her head and whispered a prayer to God. She tried to read after that, but she could not. She stole a glance at Chioma, and surprisingly, Chioma was staring at her. Dupe smiled and looked back at the quadratic equation in front of her and wondered why x was equal to y.
CHIOMA KEPT STARING at Dupe even after Dupe caught her; hatred welling up in her heart. She thought of the evil plan she had been trying to hatch and how this new development would help her with her plan. A pang of jealousy went through her chest, and she felt her eyes get watery.
How will I ever measure up to Dupe? Look at all the good things happening to her. Am I not pretty enough for Pastor Tunde. Why did he pick Dupe? Nobody likes me, nothing good happens to me. I hate Dupe.
She blinked back the tears and renewed her resolve to hurt Dupe by all means.
WHEN THE BELL rang, signifying the time for fatigue, Dupe almost jumped out of the window. She actually pictured herself doing that and running down to the hostel, screaming for her mama and hiding under her bed. She laughed at herself and wondered why she was overreacting. She stood up from her seat, signaled to Chioma, and then she went round all the classrooms to ensure that they were cleaning up. She passed Tunde’s class and caught his eye; she smiled and quickly looked away.
She saw the head boy punishing some junior students and went to him.
“Wassup Timi!” She greeted him
“I’m cool and you?” Timi asked in response.
“Good.” She said, and then added. “What have these ones done this time?”
“I got a report that they always escape during class fatigue, so today, I decided to play the owner. You know, everyday for the thief, one day for the owner, today is my day” He said with a grin on his face and a tone of triumph.
“Alright, knock yourself out” Dupe replied as she started walking away.
The head boy, Timi was a tall, dark, and slim boy. He was what girls would call Drop-Dead-gorgeous. He had this dazzling smile that could melt any heart. He was also a very intelligent person and the best student in all of SS3. Now, who would not love someone like that?
The bad thing was that he was very proud and had a bad case of superiority complex. He liked to show people that he had power to do as he wished and that he was very smart. He had asked Dupe out once, but she turned him down without even giving it a thought. She could not stand his pride. He never did give up, especially when she was made the Head Girl and he, the Head Boy. He never ceased to remind her that they were a perfect match.
“Dupe, please wait a second” Timi called out to her.
Dupe stopped and turned towards him.
“Please can I walk you to the hostel tonight? He asked “I have stuff I need to discuss with you”
“I’m sorry, someone is already walking me” Dupe replied
“And who will that be?” He asked with a frown
“Someone that is not important to you” Dupe said sternly
“You do not need to hide it from me Dupe, you know how Friday nights are, I will definitely get to know” Timi said moving closer to her “If I can’t have you my dear, nobody will” He smiled cunningly “I always get whatever I want you know”
“This target”, she said pointing at herself, “is unreachable.” Dupe said and walked away.
She was fuming as she walked away from him. She paused before she got class. She wondered why he always got her so angry and why he had to be so egocentric. He could easily be a loveable person if he could just get his eyes off himself and be humble. She took a deep breath and started walking again.
Just then, the bell rang for students to begin to return to their hostel. Dupe’s heart started a 1000meters dash. She saw junior students running towards the hostel as they usually did either to fetch a senior’s bucket of water, iron a senior’s cloth or just hide before seniors got to the hostel. She entered her class and met Chioma seating on her seat.
“Wassup girl?” Dupe asked nervously
“Are you really going to walk with Pastor Tunde tonight?” Chioma asked. “Think about this very well Dupe, do you know what people will say?”
“Chic, it’s alright” Dupe said putting her hand on Chioma’s shoulder. “You know people will always talk no matter what.” Dupe said, but that was not what was on her mind, she said that to calm Chioma who was looking so concerned.
“So, I will be walking alone tonight again” Chioma said sadly
“It’s not as bad as you are making it look Chic, you will find someone to walk with” Dupe said smiling.
“But definitely not a guy, guys never walk with me” Chioma said bowing her head.
Dupe was shocked; she never thought Chioma felt that way. Before she could say anything, Pastor Tunde came around.
“We will talk about this later” Dupe said picking up her bag.
Chioma picked her bag and quietly walked out of the class.
“What is wrong with her?” Tunde asked with a frown on his face.
“Never mind, she will be fine. Let’s go please.”
As they stepped out of the class and walked down the corridor of the SS3 block, Dupe could feel eyes staring at them. She forced herself not to search for the eyes; she held her breath as they walked. As soon as she reached the end of the corridor, she let out a long breath and turned to Tunde.
“So, what is so important that you must discuss with me tonight?”
“I had a terrible dream about you and I felt led in my spirit to tell you about it immediately. He paused to let that sink. “I know the dangers of walking with you tonight, but I just had to warn you”.
Dupe sighed. She was surprised that she felt disappointed. Wasn’t this what she was expecting him to discuss with her; fellowship, brotherly stuff? Why then did she feel so disappointed?
“What was the dream about?” she finally asked
Tunde told her the dream, leaving out no detail. By the time he finished, they were in front of the female hostel. They stopped and faced each other.
“Please, be very careful and prayerful. Be careful what you do and say to people around you.” Tunde said.
“It’s ok! I have heard what you said. Thank you so much for your concern, I really appreciate it. I would not mind your prayers too”, she said, smiling.
Just then, Timi passed and cleared his throat loudly. He looked at Dupe and then at Tunde.
“Do you have a problem with him?” Tunde asked
“Ignore him please, he is just being naughty. As I was saying, I will be careful. God bless you and thanks for taking this risk for me” She smiled. “I hope we will not be seeing comic drawings of our faces as the newest couple in school on all the billboards by tomorrow morning”
Tunde started laughing. “Won’t that be wonderful? Pastor and Choir leader! What a scandal!”
They both started laughing. It felt good to laugh after such a serious message had been delivered. Tunde felt at ease whenever he was around Dupe. He wondered why. It made him want to rethink his resolve he made about women some years back. He stopped laughing when he thought about it.
“What is the matter?” Dupe asked
“Nothing, I really need to get going. My regards to Chioma, please tell her I am sorry for stealing you away tonight” Tunde said.
“It’s okay, she will understand. Thanks again. Goodnight”.
With that, they parted.
DUPE WAS SO engrossed and lost in thought as she entered the female hostel. She did not notice Temi staring at her with jealousy in her eyes. Temi’s eyes followed Dupe as she entered the hostel. She had been hearing little gossips here and there about Dupe and Pastor Tunde, but did not want to believe it. She liked Pastor Tunde and wanted him all to herself, she was so glad when she was made his vice president in the fellowship. Although, Pastor Tunde had not noticed her, she knew it was just a matter of time. But when Chioma came to her during class fatigue and told her that Pastor Tunde would be walking Dupe to the hostel, she did not know what to think again.
At first, she did not want to believe Chioma because after all, she was Dupe’s best friend, but on a second thought, she went to ask him if she could discuss an important issue with him that night on their way to the hostel, but he declined saying he had an appointment with someone else. Now before her very eyes was Dupe leaving Pastor Tunde after laughing and talking about something that obviously tickled them. Temi was sad. She knew that as the Vice President of the fellowship, there were some certain things that she should not be caught doing, or should not even do, even aside that, she did not want to disappoint God. But she was human and had emotions. What was she to do about her emotions? Should she bottle them up and die inside or tell somebody about what she is feeling, or even fight back? She turned and went to her hostel, with a final resolve. She wanted to fight back.