Saturday, January 29, 2011

Novella: Personal Demons by Temi Ojo (Chapter 3)

“THE WORLD IS coming to an end they say. They shout ‘repent, stop doing bad things, and do not follow the ways of the world.’” The voice continued. “Well, who are they to judge who is good and who is bad?”
Tunde stepped into the room just as the last statement was uttered. He looked at the person speaking and saw that it was Amos, an atheist. He did not believe in God and did not like those that believed. He hated the term born-again and never seized to mock those that were born-again. Tunde knew it was not by chance that he was in the same room with Amos and never seized to pray for him.
“These people do the very things they warn others not to do, who then shall we believe? Like I always say, there is no God, we humans make the rules.” Amos concluded his speech looking at Tunde.
The other guys in the room followed Amos’ eye and stared at Tunde too. They already knew he had walked Dupe that night. He was not surprised at all. Tunde knew they were waiting for him to make a speech, but he resisted the temptation to do so; he had learnt in his little walk with God that God can and will always defend himself. He is more than able to prove Himself to anyone. He did it so many times in the bible, this time is no different. Tunde had also learnt that exchanging words with such people would only lead to a quarrel and will bring no edification.
So, instead of giving into the temptation to defend God which was foolish, he took a wise decision and went on his knees. He prayed for the protection of God on Dupe, he prayed for the comfort of God for Chioma who looked disturbed that night and he prayed for the revelation of God in the life of Amos and finally asked God to strengthen him. As he got up from his knees, the bell rang for lights out. Tunde took off his cloths and lay down on his bed; he only hoped he had not taken a wrong decision in walking Dupe to the hostel that night. He felt peace in his heart and knew that God was in control.

AMOS WAS VERY angry that Tunde did not argue with him. He wanted them to get into an argument about God and His existence. Not that he did not believe that there was a God, he did believe that there was God but did not believe that God cared. If he did, why then would a loving God that cares for everyone allow bad things happen to people. He liked to argue with the so called born-again fellows because he wanted answers. He had been seeking answers after the terrible tragedy that happened to him as a little boy. Ever since then, he had wondered if truly God cared.
He sat on his bed angry and willing himself not to go and make Tunde argue with him and give him the answers he wanted. He knew Tunde had the answers because ever since they became roommates, he had been watching him and once in a while, he went to church and listened to Tunde preach, but he did not have the courage to meet Tunde one on one and ask him. Over the years, after the tragedy, he had built a wall around himself and an image of a strong boy when truly, he just wanted to break down and cry and ask God why life had been so cruel to him. Amos lay down on his bed silently, determining in his mind not to give up.

CHIOMA SAT ON her bed listening to the empty banter of her roommates as they discussed the events of the night which was a usual thing at the end of every Friday night. They would discuss about every couple they had seen walking together to the hostel. It was usually a time to update themselves on which couple was still together, which couple had broken up and if they were seeing other persons and the newest couple that emerged. Chioma heard Dupe and Pastor Tunde’s name.
“Did you see Pastor Tunde and Dupe tonight?” One girl asked wide eyed
“Yes oh! I was so shocked. Who would have thought the Pastor and the Choir leader will have such a thing in mind.” The second girl replied.
“I do not think it’s anything serious girls; maybe they had some fellowship issues to discuss. I heard that a big worship program is coming up soon, maybe that is what they were discussing” another girl said.
“Then why pick a Friday night?”
They kept discussing about the issue, praising and admiring Dupe for her beauty and intelligence adding that they do not blame the Pastor for falling for her. The girls soon moved to another couple who apparently had broken up. Chioma’s mind blanked out of their discussion and for a moment she felt a pang of guilt in her heart for what she did that night. She had gone to Temi’s class when Dupe went out to do her rounds during the cleaning up and told Temi that Pastor Tunde was planning on walking Dupe to the hostel that night. Chioma saw raw anger and jealousy in Temi’s eyes and she had felt content at that time, but now, she felt guilty.
She had betrayed her friend; her best friend. Then again, she convinced herself that Dupe had also betrayed her trust and needed to pay for it. Chioma resolved in her mind to do anything that would make Dupe pay and then she would tear down the high and mighty image Dupe had. After all, she had started and there was no need to chicken out. She lay down on her bed as she thought of another thing she could do to hurt Dupe.

AS SOON AS Dupe entered her room, she locked her door and went on her knees, all thoughts in her head were secondary, even the appointment she had with Vivian. All that mattered to her at the moment was the dream Tunde told her. As soon as her knees touched the ground, she started crying. The tears became sobs as she recalled every detail of the dream. For the first five minutes, she just kept crying, she could not find the words to say to God. She remembered that her mum had told her once that its not only our words that God can hear, He hears every silent prayer we pray in laughter, tears, frowns, sad faces or even smiles; He knows our thoughts. As she was crying, she heard a knock on her door but that did not matter, she went on crying. When she could finally speak, with a heavy heart, she prayed against the spirit of shame and asked God for a sensitive spirit. After saying those few words, the tears started again as the weight of the dream hit her. She kept crying on her knees until she heard the bell for lights out. She stood up, changed into her pajamas and coiled on her bed.
Just before she drifted into sleep, she heard a whisper in her heart. I am with you always. Dupe smiled, curving her tear-stained face, as she slept off.

VIVIAN LAY ON her bed and allowed her thoughts to drift into the events of the day. A certain tall beautiful soft eyed girl dominated her thoughts; her voice, her smile. Vivian felt a certain warmth in her as she allowed the thoughts to linger. She recalled as Dupe summoned her to her table before dinner, how she held her hand and led her outside to talk with her. Vivian had felt a little shy, but she had also felt the warmth and peace radiating from Dupe as she spoke to her. There had been something deep and sincere in Dupe’s eyes as she spoke to Vivian, a sincerity and peace so deep that had made it difficult for Vivian to look into her eyes. It was that warmth and peace that had made Vivian go looking for Dupe after class fatigue, she wanted more. Unfortunately, she had knocked on Dupe’s door but no one answered her. She knew someone was inside because she could hear a voice in the room. She was so disappointed because she had wanted to feel that warmth and peace again.
Vivian let her mind drift to the last time she felt such warmth. She had been five years old. She remembered it all vividly. She would sit on her mother’s laps, smiling and laughing with her. Her mum would tickle her all over and she would throw her head back laughing really hard, her mum would hold her from tumbling down to the floor.
She sighed as she remembered. Things had gotten bad when she got admitted into Balm of Gilead and could not make good grades. No matter how much she tried, her grades were always bad. It was then she saw her mum transform from a loving mother to a terror; she kept asking herself where her real mother had gone.
“Vivian, can’t you do anything right? Your grades are as bad as ever. Try to be like your sister, she makes such wonderful grades and she is in the same school with you. What is wrong with you?” Those were are mother’s usual words.
More tears flooded her eyes as she let the voice of her mum replay in her mind. That was when she took her Junior WAEC result home. Her result was so bad; she knew it was only a miracle that she was allowed into SS1, though on probation. If she didn’t improve after her 1st term in SS1, she would have to go back to JSS3. This made her so scared. She had run away from her mother as she spoke those words and cried so hard in her room that day with no one to console her. She really wanted to please her mum and dad. She tried real hard but she just never succeeded.
Vivian allowed the tears to flow unto her pillow as that memory faded again. How would she please her mum and make her laugh with her again? Or even get her dad’s attention; make him look at her with those eyes of pride he looks at her elder sister with. Vivian remembered Dupe again and longed for more of the warmth and peace she felt around her. She held her pillow tight and drifted to sleep as she resolved to go for more.

IT WAS SATURDAY morning and all the students were busy cleaning up their surroundings for inspection. Dupe was in her room arranging her room and thinking of Chioma and what had transpired between them the night before.
“…guys never walk with me”
Dupe thought about that statement and thought back to all the Friday nights that had passed since her and Chioma became friends. She suddenly realized that what Chioma said was true. Majority of those nights, its either a guy steals her away from Chioma or both of them walk together on days when guys do not come for her, but never has any guy come for Chioma. Dupe suddenly started feeling really bad and thought about what she could do to encourage her friend. She quickly finished up her cleaning and set out to find Chioma.
Balm of Gilead had four major houses; Joy (Yellow), Peace (Blue), Love (Red) and Hope (Green) house. Chioma was in red house and it was not really far from Dupe’s room. Dupe locked her door and strolled to Chioma’s room. When she entered the room, she saw a group of SS3 girls in a circle gisting and laughing. Chioma was backing her so she signaled to the other girls not to let Chioma know she was around. She tiptoed to Chioma’s back and covered her eyes with her hands.
“Guess Who?” Dupe whispered into Chioma’s ear.
“Dupe, I know your voice even from a distance” Chioma said removing Dupe’s hand from her face.
“Whatever” Dupe said laughing.
“Wassup girls!” Dupe said
The other girls greeted Dupe and they all exchanged pleasantries and talked a little about things happening in school. Dupe and Chioma excused themselves and went to Chioma’s bed. At first, none of them said anything; they just stared at their legs.
“How was your night?” Dupe said, breaking the silence.
“It was okay” Chioma replied, still looking at her legs.
“What happened to you yesterday night?”Dupe asked directly
“As in? I don’t understand”
“That statement you made before Pastor Tunde came to class”
“What statement?” She said, pausing to think. “That guys never walk me to the hostel? Tell me Dupe, isn’t it true? Have you ever seen any guy around me? It’s always you they come for.”
Obviously, Chioma had been thinking about it a lot because she was so prompt with her response, Dupe could tell.
“I’m so sorry Chioma; I never realized that you felt this way. I promise you that henceforth, I will always walk with you to the hostel every Friday and even if he guy comes to meet me, I will turn him down”. Dupe said sincerely.
“Never mind Dupe, it’s not your fault that you are prettier than I am”
Chioma, please do not talk like that, you are as pretty as I am. Have you forgotten that we are fearfully and wonderfully made?”
“Dupe abeg. Can we change the topic?”
Dupe decided not to push the issue any further; obviously, it was not a good time to discuss it. She made a mental note to pray for Chioma in that area.
“Give me gist about yourself and Pastor Tunde jare! How did he toast you and what did you tell him?” Chioma changed the topic suddenly.
“Aha aha, Chiquito. Which one should I answer first? He did not toast me by the way. I told you it was fellowship brotherly love stuff he wanted to discuss with me. He had a dream about me, he decided to warn me and encourage me to pray.”
“Hmmm, na wa o! That is how it starts. Very soon, he will say he had a dream that God told him that you are his wife to be” Chioma said lifting her nose.
“Chic please, don’t say that. I bet that has never crossed Pastor Tunde’s mind before. He seems so uptight and spiritual around girls, even the Temi that he always walks around with”, Dupe said.
“It’s alright! Like I always say dear, time will tell.” Chioma said touching the tip of Dupe’s nose.
“Whatever girl! I mean what I said about Friday nights sha! I will keep my promise ok!” Dupe said smiling
Chioma nodded. They discussed a few more issues and Dupe left to prepare for inspection. On her way, she passed by Peace House which was Vivian’s house. Vivian spotted her and ran to her immediately. She explained to Dupe how she had come to look for her after class fatigue. Dupe apologized and fixed a meeting with her after inspection.

ELDER MRS GIFTIE Ayobami, the Principal of Balm of Gilead Secondary School conducted the inspection herself with the two senior prefects and the labour prefect. Sometimes, she delegated teachers to conduct the inspection with the prefects. The inspection in the girls hostel always went well, it was that of the male hostel that Dupe always looked forward to because there was always something to laugh about. They were not disappointed at all.
The Principal saw a junior student without socks and sandals standing by his bedside. When she questioned him, he went into a dramatic description of how a bush baby had tiptoed to his bedside the previous night and taken his socks and sandals. Everyone was in peals of laughter by the time he finished, including the principal. Surprisingly, the principal just walked past the boy laughing and went to the next hostel; the boy must have really felt good, though Dupe was sure that the prefects in that hostel would punish the boy.
After the inspection, Dupe and Ayo; the labour prefect waited for the principal to convey them back to the girl’s hostel which was quite a distance from the male hostel. As they were waiting by the car, Timi walked towards Dupe.
“I saw you yesterday night Dupe”, he whispered into her ear
“Isn’t that rather obvious?” Dupe asked irritated.
“Is that the person you are rejecting me for?” He asked with a mock smile on his face. He does not even have half of what I have Dupe. I mean, I’m smart, rich and very popular, what else do you want?”
Dupe could feel the anger welling up inside her. She looked at him and thought of what to say to him that would make him see how unreasonable he is. She saw the principal walking towards the car and knew it was time to go.
“There is one thing you do not have dearest Timi” She said quickly.
“And what would that be dearest Dupe” Timi said with a smile.
“You lack character! Go learn it.”
The Principal got to the car just then and Dupe used that opportunity to escape. She quickly entered the car before Timi could respond. As the Principal drove away, she looked out the window and saw Timi staring at her with shock and raw anger in his eyes. She smiled and settled in the car.
The principal drove the girls down to the girl’s hostel, laughing as they recalled the event at the boy’s hostel. They also recalled other funny events that had happened during past inspections and kept laughing until she dropped them off. Dupe and Ayo parted still laughing.

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