It took all of five minutes for Anjola to decide she liked the church. There was this serene, warm and yet electric air that drew her immediately she stepped into the ornate building. As time went by, she forgot about how self-conscious she felt in her casual denim skirt and fading blue shirt. The music and atmosphere seemed to lift her up from her dark valley to a height that she wished would last forever.
The service flowed effortlessly through several programs that lifted and yet wearied her. She felt a certain kind of exhaustion from an internal war because her heart kept claiming and disclaiming the One she knew was behind the joy and devotion of these people. It did not make it any easier when the preacher chose that day to talk about the faithfulness of God. He talked about faith and trust in God’s plans. She found herself longing to believe him and yet restrained by reason and a certain kind of suspicion she couldn’t explain away however hard she tried.
After the service, she was swarmed by several people who came to welcome her and not being used to that much attention, she smiled uncomfortably and prayed it would all end soon enough. She appreciated the love she saw demonstrated but wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.
Victoria’s mother offered to take her to their home for lunch which she declined and that hurt Victoria, she saw it in her eyes even if she did not say it. Anjola knew she could not go to her house without being a tad overwhelmed by envy. Why would God make her life so miserable and then taunt her with the perfection in Victoria’s life? She struggled with those thoughts and felt guilty about it so did not want to fuel it by gazing more intently upon her perfect life.
“Vick, go get your brother and sister,” Mrs. Tarebi called to her as they walked out of the church with its crowd receding gradually. Tekena and Sophie were in the Children’s/Teens church.
“Oh. Mum, please I want to see Anjola. Can we just wait for them in the car?” she pulled an imploring face and her mother smiled.
“Okay. Just a few minutes though. You know your father is coming back today.”
Victoria quickly pulled Anjola through the parking lot, to a building beside the main church building. She found a quiet spot in a small garden beside it and faced her.
“How’ve you been?”
Victoria sighed. “You know I won’t believe that,” she paused. “How are you?”
She nodded and held Anjola’s right hand.
“Anjola, you know I’m your friend, right?”
“So please, feel free to talk to me. I kind of feel like you’ve been deliberately distant from me lately. And I guess I can understand why you’d be that way but I want to help you. Please, let me help you. You don’t have to do this alone. You don’t have to be alone.”
Anjola swallowed, fighting imminent tears and hating herself for her conflicting emotions, for the jealousy that was clawing at her insides.
“Thank you,” she said in a choked whisper.
Victoria fished for a piece of paper in her bag and handed it to her. “Open it when you get home.”
Anjola took the paper and tucked it in her back pocket.
As they left the church, she wondered what was in the paper and spent about five minutes playing a mental guess game. She sat in-between Victoria, who randomly passed comments about the city they drove through and Tekena as he sang renditions of the songs they were taught in Sunday school. She smiled, remembering Remi and how she joyfully sang too, unmindful of whether or not she murdered the lyrics.
It was around 6pm before she was finally able to open the note, mostly because she was busy with chores and school work and also partly because she believed in delayed gratification. She unfolded the small scrap of paper and read:
God may not make sense to you right now but He knows what He is doing. Trust Him. He loves you.
Check out Isaiah 43:1-5.
I’m praying for you.
We’re praying for you.
* * * *
“Sophie, did you take my peach flats?” Victoria asked, standing over an unzipped overnight bag. She turned to her sister lying on her belly, headphones over her head and bopping her head to a rythmn only her could hear. Victoria shook her head and walked over to the adjacent bed and prodded the headphones away from her sister’s ears.
“What now?” Sophie asked, sitting up.
“Have you seen my peach shoes?”
“Peach shoes…peach shoes…oh! Yes. I wore them to that birthday party on Saturday,” she bent over, looked under her bed, fished out the shoes and handed them to Victoria.
“Thanks. And hey, aren’t you supposed to be reading or doing something academic right now?”
Her sister rolled her eyes, “Give me a break. Tests are not until next week.”
“You this girl. You’re not serious at all. How many times do I have to tell you it’s always better to start earlier? And you don’t know more than listening to music, playing games and social media. There is more to life than that. Have you even read your Bible today?”
Her sister rolled her eyes again and gave her that exasperated look that always annoyed Victoria. “No ma,” she said mockingly.
Victoria sighed inwardly. She loved her sister so much but she was changing. She was naturally very intelligent but no longer took her studies seriously, she spent way too much time by herself, she was becoming more distant to her family everyday, she complained about church, slept through most family devotions and acted like she had secrets. Her sister who had been warm, happy and so open with her before was becoming a person she no longer recognized.
It’s probably those teenage hormones, she often told herself but she wondered if it was not something much less fundamental.
And although she hated being so prescriptive and knew she often sounded nagging, she couldn’t just watch her slip away without doing anything. Her parents had noticed this also and often tried to set her straight but her dad had insisted the best they could do for her was pray. And that sounded nice in theory but now, standing above her nonchalant sister, Victoria was beginning to wonder if they did not need something much more ‘active’ to deal with her that just praying.
After she was done packing, she spent another thirty-something minutes looking for her phone while Teke clung to her and begged her to stay. This was the routine anytime she had to go back to school. It didn’t matter how long they did this, he was still not used to it. “Teke, you know I have to go,”
“Please now, don’t go!” he whined.
She sighed, gently pulling his hands from her legs, “Don’t worry, I’ll be back next week. Besides, Sophia is around.”
He shook his head vigorously, “No, no. Sister Sophie will not play with me. She will just be pressing her phone.”
She sighed and pulled him into a hug. “Don’t worry, I’ll be calling you.” His cute, chubby face was crinkled in distress, his small lips pulled down in a pout and it almost broke her heart to leave.
She turned back to searching for her phone but then suddenly had a thought.
“Teke, did you see my phone?”
And for the first time that evening, she saw a genuine smile break forth on his face, “I hid it in my pocket” he said smiling sheepishly, too innocent to lie, “because I didn’t want you to go.”
She should have been mad at him but could only burst out in laughter. “You sly little thing,” she picked him up and tickled him mercilessly, his merry laughter echoing through the house.
Thirty minutes later, she was ready to go. Her dad had gotten back from Kenya that afternoon and was the one who drove her back to school.
“Babe! I’ve missed you so much!” her over-dramatic roommate and friend cried immediately Victoria stepped through the door. She smiled and shook her head.
“We saw only three days ago,” she stated dryly, dropping her bags.
“And it felt like three years,” she drawled and chuckled. “How is everyone?”
“They’re good. Dad got back today.”
“Oh, great. Hope you brought something for me though?”
“Babe! You will not believe what happened to me this weeked,” Clara emphasized and Victoria wanted to say she was sure she would believe it but was only too happy to seetle down to listen friend gist her animatedly about an outing over the weekend.
The next day, they had two impromptu tests and the class she was hoping would not hold by 2p.m eventually did and she spent the rest of the afternoon running around for a group project they had to submit the next day. And since she seemed like the most serious person in her group, they all dumped the work on her lap.
It wasn’t until past 4p.m between getting snatches of snacks for lunch and trying El print the group project, before she remembered she was supposed to see Anjola. She groaned, placing a call to her immediately to cancel and fix the appointment for Wednesday. She hated how plans seemed to change when Anjola was involved and wondered what the girl thought of her.
* * * *
Anjola felt like a toad. She had woken that morning to a little queasiness and a mild fever. She knew she should not have eaten that fish Adio bought last night. She hated fish. But Adio hardly ever made such gestures and she didn’t want to look rude or ungrateful.
She’d been having that weak, nauseous feeling for some days but she didn’t think much of it. But what started as slight nausea however turned out to be a violent loss of the previous night’s meal as she puked all over the bathroom floor. After the spasm passed, she washed her mouth and bent over the bucket of water for several minutes as different thoughts ran through her mind. She really didn’t need this right now, she was in no position to be sick. But she was AA and she had been told several times that a genotype like hers was resilient to sickness. She hardly ever got sick. So why now? Did she have malaria? At least that was better than Typhoid. Or maybe she was just stressed.
It had to be that. Anything else would be extremely inconvenient. She breathed deep, closed her eyes and said, “God, I’m still very mad at you but could you just pleeease make this pass? Maybe if you do that I’ll err…forgive you.”
She didn’t know why she did that but somehow in the deep rut and seeming hopelessness she found herself, she had this feeling deep down that God was able to help her. Whether he wanted to help her however was another matter entirely.
The rest of the day was spent feeling like she was in someone else’s body. She caught herself dozing in class several times, which was quite unusual. Her exams were fast approaching and the last thing she needed was a frail mind and body.
Maybe she wasn’t ready to enter the University just yet. She decided she would probably wait till the next year. Talking with Henry had made her understand there was more to studying abroad than wishing hard for it. She had not seen Henry for almost a week and wondered if he changed his mind about helping her.
On Tuesday, the nausea and fever continued and she was glad she would be going to the hospital with Victoria the next day. She just hoped it wasn’t Typhoid or malaria.
It had to be stress.
* * * *
Hey, been a while. Sorry about not posting last week. The usual excuses.
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