IT WAS A hot afternoon and Dupe was the only one in the hostel. As the Senior Prefect Girl, she had a room to herself. She had just returned from school and was terribly exhausted. As she lay down on her bed to rest, images started flashing through her head, she closed her eyes, but she could see them clearly. Her hands went to her pillow, but she held herself and the struggle began. She tried hard to win this battle in her mind. She stood up and paced around her room, but her eyes kept going to her pillow. Suddenly, her body started to feel the sensations, she started to give in to the sensations and even though her heart was crying out to God for help, her hand finally found her pillow and that was it, she had lost the battle.
“HELLO!” CAME THE sweet voice behind Dupe. She looked back to see Chioma. Chioma was her classmate; they were both in SS3 in their school; Balm of Gilead Secondary School. It was a boarding house located in the heart of Oyo State. She had spent five years in the school and was in her sixth year and she had never had regrets. She and Chioma were best friends and they did most things together.
“Hi” Dupe responded
“What are you doing here all alone?” Chioma asked
“Dupe, you can’t tell me that! You are alone in the school garden, staring into thin air” Chioma said
“Chic, I am fine, really!” Dupe replied smiling.
Truthfully, Dupe was not fine. She was thinking about what had happened to her earlier that afternoon. She was wondering why she did not think of leaving the room when the images started flashing in her head. She had masturbated again and was feeling so guilty. She had to come into the garden to cry and ask God to have mercy on her, a practice that had become regular for the past two years.
“Come on Dupe! Cheer up! Whatever it is that is bugging you. It’s almost time for fellowship” Chioma said pleadingly.
Now, that was her greatest fear, she was the choir leader for the fellowship and she knew she would have to lead the praise and worship session that afternoon. How was she supposed to do that when she had just finished doing something that completely turns God off?
“Go on without me Chioma, please. I promise to be with you soon.” Dupe replied.
“Alright dear, if you insist, but please, do not be long, you know we are to lead praise and worship”
Chioma had just echoed Dupe’s thoughts and that only increased her heart beat. Chioma left her in the garden unsatisfied. As soon as Chioma was out of sight, Dupe went on her knees and begged God to have mercy on her and not take His presence away from her. As she prayed, tears rolled down her chicks. She did not attempt to clean them, she needed God to see them.
CHIOMA LOOKED BACK and saw Dupe on her knees. She could not help being jealous. She longed to have the kind of relationship Dupe had with God. She had become Dupe’s friend because she was popular and a lot of people seemed to like her a lot. Dupe was the Senior Prefect ‘Girl, Choir Leader in the fellowship, the best student in her class, a very good Christian and a very beautiful girl. A lot of guys flocked around her, teachers loved her, and everything about her just seemed so perfect. On the other hand, Chioma struggled in her relationship with God, she struggled in her studies, she was not an executive and so many things looked wrong in her life compared to Dupe’s. She thought that once she became Dupe’s friend, things would get better in her life, but as it were, things were not. The pangs of jealousy gripped her as she made her way to the fellowship hall.
MERCIFULLY, THE PRAISE and Worship went well that day, but the guilt had not left Dupe. As the speaker for that night picked up the microphone, the first thing he did was to praise her.
“We thank God for the life of our choir leader, Sis Dupe. God has been using her mightily in our fellowship. Each time she sings, the glory of the Lord is sure to come down”, the speaker said.
To make matters worse, those words came from Tunde, the President of the fellowship, a guy she greatly admired. Dupe felt like sinking into the ground, but she just smiled on her seat and her conscience whispered to her. If only he knew who you are and what you did this afternoon. Dupe could not wait to leave the fellowship and be back in her room where she could be alone to grieve, but something in the message caught her attention. Pastor Tunde was speaking on Temptations and how to overcome them. It was not the topic that hit her; it was the scripture he quoted. “There is no temptation that will come to you that you cannot overcome. For God will make a way of escape”. That passage brought peace to her soul. After the fellowship, she greeted all those that came around her and eventually found Chioma.
“Dupsy! I believe you are feeling much better ‘cause I can see that you are smiling chin to chin” Chioma said.
“Thank God, my friend. Sorry about the cold way I treated you this afternoon; and you backed me up so well during the praise and worship, thanks”. Dupe replied.
“No problem, what are we friends for”
Chioma felt a pang of jealousy again; she would always remain a backup and would never measure up to Dupe in anything. She chided herself for that thought and smiled at Dupe. Just then, Pastor Tunde came by. He was tall, chocolate in colour and every young girl’s dream including Chioma’s. She looked at him longingly as he approached them.
“Hello girls” he greeted.
“Good evening Pastor Tunde” They both echoed.
His smile was so dashing, Chioma could scarcely take her eyes off him, but he took his eyes off her and made them rest on Dupe.
“Dupe, that was a lovely ministration today and I meant every word I said on the pulpit”
“Pastor Tunde, lets give all the glory to God. After all, what do we have that we have not been given?” Dupe asked rhetorically.
Pastor Tunde smiled again and soon he and Dupe were engrossed in a conversation about a Worship Concert he had in mind for the fellowship. Chioma was soon forgotten and that hurt her deeply.
“Dupe, please meet me in the hostel” she said.
“Please wait for me now! I will soon be through with Pastor Tunde” Dupe replied.
Chioma had no choice than to wait. Soon they were through and they were on their way to the hostel.
“Na wa o! Dupe, I envy you o!”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Didn’t you notice how Pastor Tunde was looking at you today?”
“How?” Dupe asked, curious.
“With those luvy duvy eyes of course” Chioma said pushing her slightly
“Chioma, that is not true, Pastor Tunde was just being himself, of course, you and I know that he looks into people’s eyes whenever he is talking to them”.
“No Dupe, the look he gave you was different”.
“Ah! Chioma, abeg, you know Pastor Tunde likes Temi more”. Temi was the Vice President of the fellowship, she and Pastor Tunde were usually seen together most of the time. She was a tall, slim and pretty girl, equally in SS3 but she did not match half the qualities of Dupe. Dupe was prettier and more intelligent.
“Abeg Dupe, stop pretending as if you do not like him” Chioma argued. “Besides… anyway, forget sha!”
“Chi, I like him, but, you know… never mind, please let’s change the topic”.
When the girls got to the hostel, it was time for lunch. They hurriedly refreshed their makeup and Dupe went about her duty sending students out of the hostel. As she did this, she kept meditating on the scriptures Pastor Tunde had spoken about and surprisingly, what Chioma said came to her mind again and she actually started pondering on it.
What if Pastor Tunde actually likes me? She banished the thought as quickly as it came.
THE STUDENTS SAT down after the general prayer to feast on the Eba and Egusi Soup they were served. This was one of the best parts of Balm of Gilead Secondary School, the food was always delicious.
Prefects had a separate table to eat, most of the time. Dupe hardly sat on the table to eat because she coordinated the students, ensuring orderliness in the dining hall, but today, she felt like seating down on the table to eat. Besides, she was not the prefect on duty. As she was eating, she noticed a girl across her table; the girl was picking at her food and was barely eating anything. She had seen the girl around; she was an SS1 student and was in Peace house. Dupe made a mental note to talk with her after lunch.
CHIOMA WAS ON her table eating; the jealousy she had felt had suddenly grown into deep hatred and bitterness towards Dupe. This greatly surprised her and scared her too. As a Christian, she knew she was not supposed to let such feelings overpower her. For a few seconds, she felt remorse but the jealousy had eaten deep into her heart and she started nurturing evil thoughts in her mind towards Dupe. She started thinking of ways to hurt her best friend. A wicked smile played on her lips as Dupe stood up to give the announcement.
“As you all know, today is Friday; there will be fatigue immediately after lunch”
Students started to murmur as they did not enjoy fatigue; it entailed a lot of cutting of grass, cleaning and plenty of stress. Dupe continued unperturbed.
“There will also be inspection tomorrow; all the prefects are to remember that they are to coordinate the fatigue in their various hostels” Dupe concluded.
With that, she told everyone to clear their tables and return all pots and plates to the kitchen. After a few minutes, she asked everyone to stand up for prayers.
After lunch, Dupe went round all the hostels to ensure that they were all doing fatigue before she retired to her room. Her room was like a small cubicle with a bed, a bedside table, where she arranged her books, and a chair. Against the wall was a wardrobe for her cloths, cosmetics and provisions. The room was not so big, but it was comfy enough.
She pealed off her school uniform and changed into something comfortable, then she picked up her bible and opened to 1Corinthians 10:13; the scripture Pastor Tunde had preached on. The words brought her a lot of comfort. She went on her knees and thanked God for the timely message. She went on to beg God to prepare her for the next battle because she knew it would come.
PASTOR TUNDE HAD just returned from lunch and was quite tired. He had enjoyed his meal and thought of taking a nap. He was not a prefect and so shared a room with other guys. He did not mind as it allowed him have a close relationship with the boys around him which was good for him as the president of the school fellowship. As an SS3 student, he was immune to the fatigue Dupe had announced earlier at the dining hall, but he knew the head boy would go round to ensure that fatigue was going on and would also expect to see SS3 students helping the prefects in their various hostels. So, Tunde said a quick prayer, thanking God for his meal and the fellowship, and then he stood up and sent all the juniors in the hostel out for fatigue. Just then, Tope, the house Prefect came in.
“Pastor, thanks a lot o!” Tope said
“No problem jare, I just felt you would need help” Tunde responded
“Thanks again” Tope said and turned away.
Then he took over and gave all the juniors portions to cut. Somehow, Tunde felt good that he was not a prefect. He went back to his bed and lay down to have some rest and ponder on all that had happened that afternoon. Thoughts of Dupe sipped into his mind literarily and he allowed the thoughts to linger for a while. He admired her; how she managed to handle being the choir leader, senior prefect, and still top her class, amazed him. He remembered what happened to him a few years back, an event that changed his life and the decision he made about girls and women generally that day. Surprisingly, thoughts of Dupe still lingered…and then, he drifted into a deep sleep.
PASTOR TUNDE WAS on his way to class to read when he saw people laughing and jeering at somebody. He moved closer and chased all the students away and as the crowd decreased, he saw a girl on her knees with her head bowed and her hands covering her face, crying. He moved closer.
“Hello, why are you crying?”
The girl lifted her head and it was Dupe. He immediately took her hand and raised her up. Dupe clung to him crying. Tunde led her to a place to seat and when they were both seated, he asked her for what happened. Just then, as Dupe was about to open her mouth to speak, another mob of students gathered round and started jeering at both of them, specifically at Dupe. Before Tunde could say anything, Dupe stood up and ran away, covering her face and crying. He called out to her but she just kept running.