Hi all, I hope this reads better than the first part in terms of typos.
Zara stretched herself out comfortably on the tiny bed and watched her friend of over ten years pull a fresh habit from the cupboard as she prepared for a shower.
“So how was the week?” Sister Helen asked her.
Since her friend became a Reverend Sister seeing each other every day was no longer possible however they both tried to meet up at weekends.
“Just fine?” Sister Helen asked.
“Yes.”She replied again trying to put on an air of casualty as she reached out to pick up a book that lay on the bed.
She hesitated in relating to her friend what had happened to her during the week. After all, what was major about meeting a man? She met dozens of them all the time. But even as she thought of the tall dark handsome doctor not for the first time today alone she felt the heat rushing to her face and prayed her friend would not notice.
But her usually perceptible friend did notice. She stopped what she was doing and flopped on the bed beside her snatching the book which she had been about to pretend to read out of her hand.
“Out with it.” She said.
“Out with what?” Zara answered feebly.
“IT” Sister Helen emphasised jabbing her ribs.
“There is nothing.”
“Zara please. Look at you. You’ve turned all red. Plus the brevity of your answers has given you away. Something did happen and from the look on your face something niceeeeeee. And I want to hear all about it.”
“Look, we’re going to be late for prayers.” Zara replied in a lame attempt to switch the topic.
But her friend kept poking her.
“Alright, alright, I’ll tell you after prayers. Now please, go and take your bath or we will be late.”
“Tell me first is it about a man?”Sister Helen asked.
“I knew it!!! This is going to be interesting.”Her friend said with glee.
“I’ll be right baaaaack!”
And grabbing a towel she left.
Zara shook her head in amusement as she watched her depart. ‘The man’ hadn’t even called yet and it has been two days already not that she was counting. Did she even want him to call? In the past she knew her answer would have been a flat out no. Many men had come her way but she hadn’t been the least bit interested in them. This man was different though and she couldn’t tell why. She looked around the small room; it boasted of very few items a reading table and chair, a small shelf containing books and a mini altar. This was the life she had always wanted; a quiet life of prayer and contemplation. That and teaching. She still had the application letter she had submitted three years ago. She planned to resubmit it has proof that they she shouldn’t have turned her away…
Three years ago.
“They are here!”Helen announced has she sailed into their room. Zara didn’t have to ask her friend what she was talking about. She took the envelope that Helen extended to her in excitement. Filling out the application form was just a mere formality. After all, they were children of this convent. She tore opened the envelope and as she read through she felt her blood chill in her veins. This couldn’t be!
“What is it?” Helen asked as she noticed the change in her expression.
“I was rejected.” She said her voice barely above a whisper.
“What! That’s not possible. Here, let me see.” Helen said and she took the letter from her and quickly read through.
“This must be a mistake!”Helen cried.
“It’s not.” She replied and sat on the bed.
She was badly shaken. Never, had she expected to be turned way by the people who had practically raised her.”
“It must be a mistake.” Helen insisted.
“It’s not a mistake.” Zara reiterated.
“Check the bottom of the letter.”
Helen took a closer look, scrawled at the bottom of the letter were the words: ‘see me’ and it was signed by the Mother Superior.
“I can’t believe it.” Helen said as she sat down beside her; she put her arm round her shoulders.
“I can’t either.” Zara said and she began to cry.
What was she going to do? Where would she go? She hadn’t made alternative plans. Since she came to the orphanage she had been a good child earning the praises of all her caregivers and teachers. On the other hand if Helen wasn’t in trouble today, then she was every other day. Why would they accept someone like Helen and reject her? She was happy for her friend but all the same it hurt terribly.
It took her three whole days to summon the courage to see the Mother Superior. At first she was tempted to just pack her things and leave without seeing her. But she’d never been a disobedient person. Besides, she had to say thank you for all the years she was harboured and cared for under their roof.
Standing in front of her door she took a deep breath knocked and entered her office. Mother Mary Magdalene was standing at the window looking out, she turned.
“Ah, welcome. Have a seat.” She said.
Mother Mary Magdalene had been the head of the convent and orphanage ever since she had arrived has a child and though years had passed she still looked young and agile only the lines around her eyes gave any indication of her age.
Zara sat. For a while there was silence between them. Then Mother Mary Magdalene spoke.
“Go on speak your heart. I can tell there is a lot you want to say.”
She left the window and sat down on her seat directly opposite her; crossed her arms, looking her straight in the eye. The plan had been to just express her gratitude for the time they had kept her under their roof and leave. But now that she was asking, it all came tumbling out.
“Why was I rejected? I tried my best to be a good child, a good person, you can ask everyone. I mean you even accepted Helen! If you could take her, why not me? I don’t understand and I do not think it’s fair. Her own outburst amazed her. She thought all this days that she’d come to terms with it, apparently not. It was going to take a while for this to heal.
Mother Mary Magdalene raised an eyebrow.
“Helen is not under discussion here. But since you have brought her up, do you think you are better than she is?”
“Mother! That is not what I meant I…”
“I know.” Mother Mary Magdalene interrupted her.
She leaned forward. “I want you to go out, meet people, and make friends outside this place.
You know… see the world.”
“I don’t understand.”Zara said.
She’d expected some form of roundabout apology and an odd explanation but this…go out and see the world? What world?
“Helen, has been out in the world and has been a part of it. That is why she was taken. You my dear haven’t.”
Zara couldn’t believe her ears she was beginning to understand what this was all about and she didn’t like it at all.
“With all due respect Mother, This isn’t the Sound of Music . I am not some kind of Maria! I have been out there! I went to the university…”
“Yes! And… and…” Zara stopped her rebuttal.
Mother Mary Magdalene was looking at her as if she was missing the point entirely.
“Go on.”She said quietly.
Zara sat back trying to think of what she was missing. Then slowly it dawn her. She and Helen had both been nominated to be sponsored up the university level by the convent to their benefactors.
Once in school she had bent over and worked. Her life basically consisted of classes, church, and her room. Mean while Helen had attended quite a few parties, messed around with clothes and make up dated briefly and had even come back partly drunk one night. Of course all this information was known only to her and Helen. But as she looked into the eyes of the elderly nun across the desk, eyes that looked all knowing, she wondered…
“Mother.” she began again.”This is the life I want. I am not interested in any other life that might exist out there.”
“Well, we just want to make sure of that dear.” Mother Mary Magdalene said.
“Now let’s see…hmm let’s discuss this again in say… three
“Three years! But mother…” Zara began then fell silent.
Mother Mary Magdalene was giving her another look. This look she knew all too well. It was the I have concluded. My mind is made up. Don’t argue with me look.
“Alright. Mother” She said with resignation.
Even as she stepped out of Mother Mary Magdalene office she knew what she was going to do. At the appointed time three years from now she was going to resubmit that same application just to prove all this had been a waste of time…
She blinked and looked at her friend she had been so lost in thought that she hadn’t noticed that she was back.
“Dreaming about him eh? I can’t wait to hear this!” Sister Helen said.
“I was not….oh never mind let us go we are almost late.”
As they left she thought once more of the application form sitting in her drawer at home. Three years ago she had swore to resubmit it. That date was now only three days away. Up to last week she knew she was going to submit it. But now the path she so desperately wanted to follow was been placed in jeopardy by a man she had met just once. A man she wasn’t even sure she would see again.
Brought out of his reverie by the cry, Chuka had barely a second to remember where he was and even less than that to react to the situation. He moved, but he was too late has his attempted to stop their opponents from increasing their tally against them fell short; the tip of his fingers just grazing the ball. A resounding cry of triumph erupted from their adversaries and he swore softly under his breath.
“What is wrong with you?” One of his team mates yelled in annoyance.
Chuka did not answer as he walked into the post to retrieve the ball from the back of the net. He’d rather jump off Olomo rock than tell any of them what the matter was. They would laugh at him well… forever. He’d been thinking about her again. It had just been two days. Two whole days and he couldn’t get her out of his mind. Those mesmerising eyes… He was doing it again. He flung the ball with force towards the centre of the pitch, promising himself full concentration. But the damage was already done the game ended 3-2 in their opponents favour.
“What’s up Chuka?” Ikenna asked.
The moment had come. Somehow he had survived the incessant ribbing from his friends in the shower room about his very poor and uncharacteristic performance on the pitch. But Ikenna his close friend and colleague had been throwing curious looks at him and he knew it was only a matter of time before he faced the music with him. The moment had presented itself when they were both finally alone in the club’s lounge seeping cold drinks.
Chuka, swirled the juice and ice in his hand while he tried to decide how best to answer his friend. He really wanted to keep this to himself a while longer. After all, it was just a crush he was having wasn’t it? But something in him told him not to deceive himself. This was much more than that and he could you use some advice. He had been out of the dating scene for so long. Who better to talk to about it than his closest friend?
“I met someone.”
There. It was out. He sat back expecting his friend to laugh at him. But Ikenna did not laugh. But his response was no less attention-grabbing.
“Alleluia! Praise the lord!” Ikenna said.
Chuka did not know whether to be angry or embarrassed.
“Hey!” He jabbed his friend.
“I should have guessed. The way you zoned out on the field…finally! I was beginning to despair.”
“Give me a break Ikenna it’s not been that long.”
“Really?” Ikenna replied.
“Can you tell me how long exactly?”
He had no reply to that.
“See?” Ikenna said.
“Ok! Ok! It’s been that long.” He admitted.
And so what? Was he suppose to throw himself at women who did not interest him?
“So, when do I get to meet this girl?” Ikenna asked as he reclined in his seat.
“After I have actually met her I guess.” Chuka said.
“What? Don’t tell me that your years of inactivity have turned you into a wimp? Have you even spoken to her? ”
“I have.”He replied. And he went on to tell him how they met.
“So… when are you calling to fix your date? You shouldn’t waste time today or tomorrow will be best…oh I have forgotten you won’t be around.”
“I won’t?”Chuka asked puzzled.
“Guy, this girl is really spinning your head. Have you forgotten about the conference?”
“No, I haven’t. It’s next week.” He snapped back at his friend in irritation. Seriously, what did he take him for?
“Nope.” His friend said with a grin.
“It’s two days from now.”
“It can’t be…” He reached for his tablet on the table and quickly consulted his diary.
“It is.” He said in surprise.
“So what are you going to do?” Ikenna said.
“I don’t know.” He replied.
He couldn’t afford to miss this particular conference. It came up only once in a year and any surgeon who took his practice seriously had to be there.
“Call and tell her you’ll be away for the week.” Ikenna said.
Chuka sighed. “Yes. I’ll do that.”
How was he going to survive one week without setting his eyes on her again? Anyway perhaps
it was for the best. It would give him the opportunity to get his emotions under control.
The two days leading up to the trip passed in a blur. Suddenly discovering that he had to be in Frankfurt much earlier than planned meant he had to do a lot of things in a rush. The first real breathing space he was getting was now as he sat in the departure hall of the Murtala Mohammed airport. With butterflies in his tummy he finally placed the call to Zara and got the reply no lovesick person wanted to here: The number your calling is switch off please try again later.
“I am sorry ma, but it can’t be repaired you will have to buy a new one.” The dealer said.
Zara stared at the bits and pieces scattered on the counter that were once her phone. Some of the pieces that were barely identifiable as part of the device were thoroughly covered in paint. A team of her students lead by Segun of course had decided to give her phone a makeover. The set may have survived if they hadn’t gone as far as dipping it in to the paint mixture. She was sad to see it go. She’d had it for quite a number of years. It was old and tired looking but it had served her well. But her colleagues welcomed its demise when she showed it to them.
”At long last.” One of them said.
“I was actually planning to break it myself. That thing was long overdue for the rubbish bin Zara.”
“Madam let me interest you in the latest…” The dealer began.
But she caught him short “Abeg, don’t show me the latest in anything. I have a very small budget. Just show me something simple I can make and receive calls with.”
“Ha! Madam! Just take a look at this one I guaranty you won’t regret it…”
It took her almost an hour to leave the phone shop thanks to the dealer. But despite his best attempt she ended up leaving with exactly what she wanted; something simple and in-expensive.
As she began the long walk back to her car, she activated the phone and almost immediately a call came through.
“ I have been trying to reach you for the last couple of days! Why did you switch of your phone? I was beginning to get worried!”Helen said.
“Sorry, my phone got damaged and I have been too busy to get a new one until now. But you have both my landline and the school number. If you needed to reach me you could have called either of them. ”
“Hmm! Shows the boring social life you have for you not to miss your phone.” Helen said.
“I like my life the way it is thank you very much.” Zara replied.
“Anyway, I was calling to find out if you know ‘who’ has called. But that purpose is defeated since you haven’t had a phone in the last couple of days. ”
“If he is serious he will keep trying.”Zara said.
“How am I sure you didn’t purposely damage your phone just to avoid talking to him.”Helen accused her.
“Helen, how can you say you such a thing?”Zara replied as she negotiated pass the human traffic around her. She pulled her bag closer. Ikeja was a massively overpopulated district in Lagos, and where there is a crowd thieves abound.
“Why won’t I say so? You keep pushing men away. In fact you don’t give them a chance at all.”
Zara got to her car and entered but did not drive off.
“Helen what is all this? I am too old for you to be chastising me like a child. I want to enter the convent and you know it.”
“No, you want to enter the convent because you think that is the only road for you take because of-”
Zara cut her off sharply.”Let us not go there Helen. Please.”
She heard her friend sigh heavily on the phone. “Did you at least take his number?”
“No. What for?”Zara asked.
“To … oh never mind. I give up. Take care.” And she hung up.
Zara let out her own breath. She knew her friend hadn’t given up but simply backed off temporarily.
She started her car and began the ten minutes drive home to her house in Ogba. She lived in one of the many low income housing estates there.
As she drove Zara found herself getting angry with her friend. She’d finally began to put her chance encounter with the doctor behind her. Only to have Helen put him back on the front burner again.
As soon as she had left the hospital that day she had regretted giving him her number. What on earth had she been thinking? She’d gotten carried away by his soft spoken manner and his good looks. It was the first time she was getting carried away like that. But he was handsome. Model handsome. Cool eyes, clean shaven, good built and height.
“Auntie Zara welcome!” A voice called from the balcony upstairs as she drove up to her home.
She got out of her car and acknowledged the greeting of her neighbour’s son.
Zara let herself into her two bedroom apartment downstairs and went straight to her room to change. The weekend held no serious activity either in church or at the homeless peoples home she helped out in. The plan was to relax and be a couch potato around the house. But now thanks to her friend she was going to spend it brooding.
The truth is that she had felt something when their eyes had met and when his hand had touched hers. It had both shocked and scared her. She lay down on her bed and brought out her new phone from her bag. Even if she wanted to contact him she didn’t have his number. You know where he works. A voice in her said. Go and seek him out? Never. She wasn’t bold enough to do that. He knew where she worked has well. He’d forgotten about her period. And to think that she had held on to the application letter…There was still ample time of the deadline left though. But she was still reluctant to do it. Over a man she had meet only once?
“You are been very foolish Zara. There is only one way for you. There always has been.”She said out loud.
“I am sending it in first thing on Monday morning.”
She put down the phone and standing up made her way to the parlour determined to distract herself. Surely there would be something to watch on TV.
Picking up the remote she began flipping through channels. Nice! ‘Things fall Apart’ just the kind of long epic movie she needed. She grabbed a plate of rice and a glass of water from the kitchen and made herself comfortable and ended up falling asleep in the parlour unaware of the fact that there were now several missed calls on her phone.