Friday, June 5, 2020

LOVE STORY OF A GOOD CHURCH GIRL

We got to church quite early, as it is our usual tradition. The compound was already bubbling with life. Different brands of cars packed around, reflecting the social status of the parishioners.
The entire compound was saturated with human activities, hawkers and petty traders displayed their wares anywere it would be visible.
People walking to and fro the walk ways, dressed in different attires. Some were simple and elegant like me, others were extravagant and flashy. Some modest and decent, others wild and provocative.
This was a typical Sunday service, the good, the bad and the ugly all meet here, some to worship the lord, some for entirely different reasons.
Which group do I belong to? I wasn’t sure anymore. I used to be a good girl, but the thoughts that have preoccupied my mind for the past two days, makes me doubt my own self.
Normally, everyone will go his seperate way as soon as we arrived. My mum and dad would find a seat, Osas will meet up with the man servants, while i join the alter girls. Ighalo was always a freelancer.
As i alighted from the car, i made towards the entrance to the church hall.
“did you not hear what i said this morning”? My dad said rather loudly.
“you are sitting next to me hence forth”
I did not want to cause a scene, so i stoped and waited for them.
My parents had a knack for picking seats at the front. This means i had to walk almost the entire length of the hall. The different eyes staring at me made me shy. I notice men, old and young staring at my butt, or looking up at my cleavage. I scanned through the audience hoping to catch sight of Ehis.
Mid way through the hall, i spotted Ruth among the crowd. I fixed my eyes firmly on her, hoping she would turn towards my direction.
She sighted me from her position. I’m very sure she would have come towards me, if my parents weren’t in front of me. My mum hated Ruth and Hannah. They weren’t the most decent of girls anyway.
She made a sign with her hand, to notify me that she will get in touch.
I marched along with my parents, with my head up high, trying not to notice the eyes starring at me.
We got a seat at the front row and settled in, waiting for service to start. Friends and wellwishers stoped by to greet my parents. I was really uncomfortable sitting beside them.
My eyes kept roving about the hall, hoping to see Ehis. He was nowhere to be found.
I turned round, to look directly behind me, i scanned face after face discreetly.
A little tap on my shoulder brought me back to my senses. I turned round to see who it was.
It was Osato, my little friend. Though just 10 years old, he was a little too smart for his age. His mother is a friend of our family.
He greeted my mum and dad, and sat quietly beside me. Osato has always been fond of me. We had developed quite a bond. His sitting close to me did not raise any suspicions.
I could feel him nudging me with his arm several times, so thought the space between us was too tight for him.
I tried to move away a little. Just then, i noticed his palm outstretched, between our tights. There was a neatly folded sheet of paper on it. This has to be a message, i was sure of it.
I looked side ways towards my parents, they were deeply involved in a discussion with the catechist.
I snatched the note from Osato’s palm, and hurriedly tucked it inside my bible.
Osato got up, and hopped away. His mission had been completed.
I opened my bible slowly, looking for the page were i had hidden the note.
I spotted the white paper, and pretended to be reading my bible. The message was short, but It’s very content excited me.
“Behind the house of Mary, please wait till service starts”
I became impatient after reading those words. I couldn’t wait for the d--n service to start. I kept adjusting myself on my seat.
Although there was no name on the note, it was Ruth’s handwriting. The “house of Mary” refers to a small building at one corner of the church compound. It had a statue of Mary built inside. People usually go there to pray.
The sight of the reverend father walking up to the alter made my heart beat faster. The time to leave is gradually coming.
The reverend welcomed everyone to the day’s service. People scrambled to find their seats around. The entire hall was rowdy for a while.
Slowly, normalcy was starting to return. Everyone sat down, and the day’s service was opened with a hymn.
My heart and soul were completely detached from the church. All i could focus on was how to leave the hall without arousing my parent’s suspicion.
I got up from my seat, and moved closer to my mum. I bent down and whispered into her ear.
“i want to buy sanitary pad, my period has suddenly started”
“didn’t you know it would start today? Are you a small child, she answered in a rather irritated tone.
“it happens unexpectedly sometimes”, which was a lie.
My mum put her hands in her purse, and brought out a #500naira note
“hurry before you stain yourself”
I get to accomplish my mission, and also get paid for it, I thought to myself as I made my way out of the hall.
A feeling of eagerness, and excitement coupled with a little guilt dominated my heart. I wondered if Ehis was waiting for me there.
The church compound was much quieter now. The walk way was nearly devoid of people, save for a few people who were probably on a mission too.
I headed straight for the house of Mary. I could see a car parked almost behind the house, a black, Toyota camry, it had tinted Windows making it impossible to see who was inside.
Ruth was standing right next to the car as I approached. She opened the door to the back seat, and waved at me to go in.
My heartbeat raced as i saw Ehis inside the car. A smile enveloped my face. I could barely hide my excitement. He smiled back at me, and hugged me really tight.
He held my chin, and drew me closer to himself for a kiss. I closed my eyes, anticipating the taste of his lips.
A hard knock on the car window sharply interrupted our kiss. It was Ruth, she was trying to warn us of something.
I looked around, and saw my mother walking towards the house of Mary, with fury and haste, clutching on to my bible.
It suddenly hit me, i left the note in my bible. My mum must have found it. God, I’m in trouble again I said to myself.
Ehis saw the troubled look on my face. He smiled, and told me to calm down. Ruth will take care of this.
I doubted him, my mum was quite a detective.
The 6’o clock alarmed buzzed with It’s usual disrespect and insolence. I hated that alarm. It seems to go off during the sweetest part of my sleep.
Unlike most people though, i loved Monday mornings. It meant going back to school. It way my getaway, my only chance of leaving this cell.
Today was a special Monday, i was going to do something i had never done before. I was excited and scared at the same time.
My day began like every other day, i jumped out of bed 5 minutes after the alarm, and dragged myself to the sitting room for morning devotion.
Once again, order than mumbling a few unintelligible words, i had no active participation in the prayers.
My mind was solely focused on getting to school. As soon as the prayer ended, i greeted every one, and headed straight for the kitchen to do my chores.
I finished up quite early, the zeal and speed with which i finished my chores surprised my mum, i was fond of lingering on chores.
I bathed swiftly, and got set for school. My white shirt and blue skirt were properly ironed. There was not a single stain on my stockings.
I looked as neat and tidy as possible, everything was in order. I came out of the house, and sat inside my mum’s car waiting for her to take me to school. She took me to and from school every single day of my 6 years in secondary school.
As i sat there, my mind began to wander. I was about to do something strange and unfamiliar. How ll this day turn out? Where exactly is Ehis going to take me? I was unsure of myself, but i just couldn’t wait to find out.
My mum joined me in the car few minutes later, it was already 7:45am. She started the engine and we zoomed off. My day was just about to start.
The usual traffic in Benin city ensured that i was almost late for school. My mum Droped me off exactly 2 minutes before 8 0’clock. She handed me a hundred naira note for lunch, and zoomed off.
As i walked through the gate, i took time to examine the entire school compound. And kept wondering how i would be able to make it out without being noticed.
The entire compound was tightly secured. The perimeter fence was high, and lined with barbed wire. It was impossible to jump over.
The school had 2 entrances, and 2 security posts. One in front and one behind. Each had stern looking men manning the gates, with strict warning not to allow students out of the compound till the school closes.
The security arrangement in the school, coupled with the hostile nature of the gatemen made the school look more like a federal prison than a learning center.
I walked straight to the assembly hall with my bag firmly hung on my shoulders, as i was already late.
The morning assembly was like every other one. We sang some hymns, recited the national anthem and performed other daily routine.
The principal made an announcement, reminding all SS3 students of the commencement of waec and JAMB registration, we were to part with the sum of 25thousand naira in all.
The annoucement was greeted with some happiness, it meant we would soon be out of secondary school. I can’t wait to be in the university, it would mean one thing…..Freedom!
We marched to our various classes, singing along.
As soon as we sat in class, i moved to Ruth’s seat. I couldn’t contain my excitement. I wanted all the details of the escape plan. How exactly I’m i going to leave this school compound?.
Ruth and Hannah looked at me with surprise and laughed hysterically. My naivity must have amused them. I looked like a curious lamb perhaps.
” Did you bring extra clothes?” Ruth asked
“why? What for?” I asked, genuinely surprised.
“Haba you can’t be walking outside with your school uniform na, you want to tell the entire Benin that you escaped from school?” Hannah replied, a little irritated.
“i didn’t know i had to, so what do we do now?” I asked, with a worried look
“Ruth will give you her own”
“will you?”
Ruth obliged, she always comes in handy for evil deeds. She was like the devil’s assistant to me.
I was about to ask other questions, when the class suddenly became quiet. Our class teacher had just walked in.
I turned around and headed for my seat.
“last period before break” Ruth wispered to me. As I approached my seat.
The morning lessons went by slowly. I barely understood anything that was said in class, thanks to the fear and excitement building up inside me.
The bell rang, to signify the end of the third lesson of the day, and the beginning of the last lesson before break.
The subject was geography, which i don’t offer. I got up and hurried left the class before the teacher arrives. Ruth and Hannah were right behind me. They were both holding their school bags, mine was still on my seat.
They led me towards the security post behind the school. I kept wondering how we were going to walk past the gateman.

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