Posted by News Express | 10 September 2018 | 2,672 times
As the depression was slowly setting in by the frustration of having written JAMB for the fifth time without making the cut-off mark, Vera knew she had to wait for another year of her youthful life at home. Her friends, who had already got admitted to tertiary institutions, would always come over with the tales of the free world called university; where she will get to live a less-policed life, which she currently had with her father and brothers. Of course, Paul, her immediate elder brother, reminds her that each JAMB failed was a whole year gone. Thinking hard of what could be wrong with her, as she was one of the bright students during her secondary schools days in Girls of Honour Secondary School.
Sobbing uncontrollably at the chapel has become one of her daily routine since the JAMB result was released. The priest - who had taken note of her frequent visit and wailings like the biblical Hannah - approached her to console her, wondering if she had a loved one at the point of death, or lost someone. But the reality is that she was losing her future with each failed attempt. Rev Fr Franklin sat her down and counselled her: on the need to appreciate the fact that a waiting period could be turned into a development period. She could learn a skill while waiting; and that most importantly, God could be delaying but not denying her of a university admission for a reason. Maybe, she was not mentally ready as she thought; maybe she needs to discover what her true self was before applying for a tertiary institution, and not just going by the reigning professional courses which most of her friends had selected without even knowing what it was all about, or why they had selected them. Most of their decisions were simply because their parents chose and insisted they study the course.
You need to walk in line with your higher calling, Franklin was saying, as she was lost in her thoughts. The priest went on to narrate the need to be mentally and spiritually ready before embarking on a journey that determined a person’s future to Vera and the hazards that come with each poor choice one makes. She felt calm finally. After each counselling, she always looked forward to the next. Each time she visited the parish, she learnt something new during her sessions with Franklin.
As the next post-UME approached, Vera knew she had prepared very well. She prayed for success, and faith was all she needed, but anxiety was taking a better part of her. After the post-UME examination, she decided to take a tour of the school building. Stopping at every classroom and wondering when she would ever sit on them and be called one of the campus babes.
“Hello Jambite?” She was startled as she turned to the voice behind her. He was staring at her with a big smile. “Sorry, I startled you. I’m Henry. How was your exam?” “Fine” she said shyly, as she looked down.” Hope your name would be among the primary list in a few months?” he asked. With a shrug, “I pray so”, Vera replied. Pray so? I could help you with your admission if you want. Hearing that, Vera couldn’t believe her ears. Finally, God had sent an angel to her. “Please, if you do that God will bless you”, she said. It’s no big deal, Henry said grinning at her.
The eve before Vera would be travelling to school, she couldn’t still believe she had gotten an admission; though in the supplementary list, all that mattered is that she has been finally admitted. All thanks to the angel called Henry who has been keeping her abreast with all the mighty efforts he has been making to secure her an admission. And, of course, he has been so kind to her.
After the morning prayers the following morning, her father admonished her to take her studies seriously and always remember her home training. She was so eager to meet the world and so grateful she was finally going to a higher institution of learning. She had made promises before God on keeping her chastity come what may.
Soon after, Henry was no longer a familiar face and a brother in the Lord, as he had introduced her to his Christian fellowship, which made her thought of him more as not just an angel but a holy angel to lead her directly to the feet of God himself. He always made sure she attended the campus fellowship meetings. Such a fervent Christian he was and a “replica” of Christ on earth. Academically, she was alright, and everything was going well. Thanks to the several counselling sessions Franklin gave to her, she came prepared.
The kisses were becoming more frequent than their usual goodbye kisses. Even her friends had noticed that was not “born-againly” of her; but then, nothing was wrong with that, as it was from Henry. A guy who had no ulterior motive whatsoever and only sought after her best interest? Besides, this is not the first time she’s passed the night in his place for an all-night study; I mean the guy has self-control and proper discipline, she thought to herself. Despite all the warnings from Philip, a brother at the fellowship, she thought she knew Henry better than everybody else and, besides, nothing could make her compromise her faith and promise to God. All these she was so sure of until she noticed her period was three weeks late.
Henry’s family knew her well; they always called her on phone. Especially Uncle Ben’s wife who was so fond of her and even sends airtime to her phone every now and then. I mean his family has virtually accepted me, she was telling her friend. We are just waiting to graduate, get a good job and get married.
“Maybe, I should talk to Auntie Lucy about this lateness?” she said out loud to Henry. You dare not! He said with so much fury. Glaring angrily at her that she was shocked as she had never seen him like that. “Are you crazy? Can’t you read the handwriting on the wall? Go do a pregnancy test ode!” There, it dawned on her! How come she never thought of that? She had even become an ode before the man who adored her brilliance. She knew she had compromised herself, but then pregnancy? She sobbed so bitterly.
After rededicating her life to God, she kept reciting her new favourite Scripture, which seems to be soothing her condition: “For all has sinned and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23. Henry had succeeded in convincing her to get an abortion, since they were still in school and couldn’t compromise their future. Besides, they would always be together and he would never leave her. So, it was just a token of sacrifice on her part for their bright future.
Finally, it was her final examination before becoming a graduate. Sipping her herbal tea, and feeling regretful at the horror which she was going to present as a result, nothing could remedy her from her past poor performances, and the pains she experienced from having a miscarriage as she had taken in again, after she had vowed to abstain till they were married. Well, she ought to be grateful she thought to herself. At least, she didn’t have to go through the hell of another abortion. God had been so merciful in letting her miscarry this time, and she still had the love and support of Henry. He has been so caring and supportive through all they have been through.
Serving at her place of primary assignment, Henry’s visit had become frequent and everybody knew them as a couple. She had told everyone that she was engaged to him and that that they were getting married as soon as she passed out from service. Her friends looked at her with respect and envy, with the way she carried herself as a good Christian, with a life well planned out. Most of her friends couldn’t even boast of a boy-friend, much more a fiancé. She was so lucky, was their usual phrase each time their usual discussion landed on marriage and life after NYSC. Especially this particular beautiful girl, Ema, who was so keen on finding true love; every love story elicited tears from her eyes. She couldn’t believe that she was still single with all her curves in the right places. Maybe, she was right; someone must have exchanged her face with a masquerade’s. Ema always came to Vera, a staunch, fervent Christian, for prayers to help her find her own Henry based on the fairy tales Vera constantly fed her. A good Christian who could help her in her heavenly race! Vera always came to evangelise to her each Sunday she missed a mass, and told her how much she needed to work for God in other for the Lord to work for her.
It was November and they were getting ready to pass-out from NYSC and face the labour market. Vera called Ema to come over to her place. She sounded windy about what they had to discuss. Ema eagerly ran over to her place, which was just a few blocks from her house. She knew it would definitely be about Henry, as that was always what Vera spoke about. She was so happy she was going to help pick the colour of the day. Just a knock and Vera opened the door to let her in; and, immediately, she shut the door with a key. Before Ema could say a word, Vera began to weep bitterly, as she fell to the floor. Ema was shocked and confused. Who died? She slowly said while trying to console her friend.
She was pregnant! As unholy as that sounds to Ema, coming from the abstinence teacher; at least, they were going to get married, after all, but then the next line hit her. Henry wants an abortion as he was not ready to father a child. When she was finally calm, Ema dialed Henry to speak with him, but got a bucket-load of insult for herself and her friend; enough for both of them as soon as she explained who she was, and why she had called. Well, all that glitters are not gold, indeed. There was nothing gentlemanly about his voice any more.
Days had run into weeks and she was already three months gone. “I think you should do it and forget about this selfish goat and move on with your life,” Amber said. They had decided to let her in on the challenge since no solution was coming forth from just the two of them. Ema couldn’t bring herself to encourage an abortion, even though she wasn’t as religious as Vera, neither was she as care-free and unbreakable as Amber.
Vera had refused to confide in any family member, but decided to talk to Uncle Ben’s wife, auntie Lucy, who has been so nice to her and supportive of her relationship with her brother-in-law, Henry. “How are we so sure that Henry is really responsible for that thing you are carrying?” Vera couldn’t believe her ears. She felt torn apart.
It was obvious she has been denied and, worst still, with an allegation of promiscuity hanging around her head. Where does she start from? She was alone, rejected, broken-hearted and broke. “What have you been doing with your monthly allowances?” Ema asked. Vera could neither give a reasonable account of where her money is nor how it was spent. “I think it’s best you face your family,” Ema continued. “They will always be your family no matter what happens. You can’t do this alone; and don’t even attempt it! What if there’s a complication? Have you ever thought of that? Please talk to your family, especially your sisters: they will understand better.”
It’s been two months after her father’s burial. Vera’s life was completely torn apart. Her father had developed a heart-attack, which consequently led to his death. Her elder brother, Paul, would always shame her for accomplishing nothing but bringing forth a bastard to them. Henry hadn’t even bothered to call, much less come to see his baby-girl, Maya. Life was unfair! She has been job-hunting and nursing her baby, which hasn’t been easy. Lynda, her elder sister, who came immediately she received Vera’s call about her predicament, and subsequently took her home; wept bitterly as soon as she saw what has become of her baby sister.
If only she knew that she didn’t have to conceive three times to realise that Henry was not the one for her; if only she knew that Henry never had any influence over her admission; if only she had taken the road to self-discovery a little more seriously, as Fr Franklin had advised. If only she hadn’t made JAMB and admission, the gods of her destiny; if only she used “no” in place of her “maybes”, if only she didn’t compromise her standards, no matter the odds; if only she was more self-willed; if only she didn’t have to say “Hallelujah” before her family and priest but said “oh yeah” to peer pressure; if only she knew that she was her own first priority before anything and anyone else.
If only her God meant more than just a religion to her.
If only she knew that she was the hope for her future and not Henry. If only she knew that education alone is not a magic wand that blew away foolishness, but wisdom.
If only she had the courage to speak of her first mistake, and then let it go; then less blame would be on the government for her present struggle to land a job, as her skills would be able to sustain her and her daughter. Meaningful co-existence starts from the substance within each and every one of us. We all need to deal with the bigger picture, which is self and what it will become in the long-run. Yes, we all need love, a good government and a quality social environment. But, then, the paradise is for complete and whole beings, not shattered personalities with no sense of direction based on some irreconcilable past mistakes. Mistakes are part of life and there is nothing to be ashamed of, but that can always be avoided by our choices, corrected by our actions, and not repeated by understanding the lesson they teach.
Self -worth and self-development should be the mantra of every youth.
•Esther Chizaram Ngele writes via email@example.com
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