When Anjola got back home the next day, she felt completely drained. She was both relieved and bitter when her mother didn’t ask about her whereabouts. It didn’t matter that Mrs. Adegbite had called her the day before to tell her Anjola would be spending the night at her place. At least, any normal mother would still ask questions since an introduction as vague as “Anjola’s senior friend” had to at least need an explanation.
But since she didn’t ask, Anjola was only too glad to say nothing. And all of a sudden, Anjola wondered what kind of mother she would be. Would she be as negligent, indifferent and unloving as her mother? The thought made her shiver. She still couldn’t believe she was going to be a mother.
Toke however, was not that easily placated.
“Where you go?” her cousin asked when she got back later in the afternoon from her shift. Anjola was stacking drinks in the refrigerator at the bar when her cousin got back.
“I was at a friend’s place.”
“Which friend?” she enquired adamantly, forming the word to sound like “wish”.
Anjola sighed. “You don’t know her.”
“Heeen! Abi you go to your boyfriend house. You better talk true o!”
Anjola gave her a look she hoped conveyed what little patience she had for Toke’s foolishness. “Whatever.”
Her cousin shook her head, “You know I am watching you since. You are doing very somehow these days.”
Anjola said nothing, just allowed the clinking of glass fill the silence. She felt Toke move closer to her, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“Anjola, what is doing you? You are not like this before,” her voice was gentler now.
She bit her lip to keep from screaming at the top of her lungs. Of course she wasn’t the same anymore, couldn’t they see? How could she live under the same roof with people she called her family and it was taking them forever to figure she wasn’t fine? Where had they been that night she wept in pain and had to hide her blood stained dress? Where were they when she spent several sleepless nights battling her own demons? Sometimes she felt she was invisible, like they saw her but weren’t really seeing her. Well, at least Toke had noticed, however long it took and it warmed her heart only slightly. She was after all better than her own mother, who was utterly clueless.
“I’m fine,” she let the lie roll easily off her tongue but since she knew Toke would not believe her, added, “I just really want to go to Harvard but since there’s no money…” she shrugged.
Toke’s eyes softened, “Ahh! Sorry Jola. Don’t worry, God will provide,” she said without much conviction.
She nodded. “Thanks.”
Later that evening, Henry showed up at the bar and she had to tell him she wasn’t interested in the programme anymore. He didn’t seem very pleased with that.
“But I told you, I can help you sort the money out especially with scholarships,” he said, cradling a bottle of beer and looking at her imploringly.
She shook her head. “It’s not only about the money. I’m just not…ready,” she shifted from one foot to the other, feeling uncomfortable with the way everyone seemed to be looking at them. But she could not help it, she had to tell him.
“What’s wrong Anjola? This has been your dream for a long time, so why quit now?”
She narrowed her eyes, the hairs of her skin suddenly standing stiff. How did he know that? And why was he so interested anyways? She wanted to ask him but stopped. This was not the time or place.
“Yes, but I’m not quitting. It’s just on hold that’s all.”
He sighed. “Anjola, I told you I want to be your friend. You can talk to me.”
She shook her head and started to back off, “I have to go.”
Once again, she had that uneasy feeling that Henry was not all he seemed, that there was something he was not telling her. But of course, she could be wrong. Her intuition about people was often incorrect especially with the recent happenings in her life. She just did not trust people, especially the male species.
After making over half a dozen rounds, Anjola was tired. She sat back behind the counter and breathed deeply, trying not to think about the cause of her sudden weariness. She still hadn’t decided what she would do with the pregnancy but she had to think fast before it became too obvious. As indifferent as her mother seemed, Anjola knew she was very perceptive and it was only a matter of time before she noticed.
Mrs. Adegbite and Victoria had tried to convince her to tell her mother the truth but she would have none of it. And it wasn’t like Anjola was scared of what her mother would say or do – she really didn’t care anymore – she just did not want her to know. She did not want her to find out that she was after all, the daughter of her mother and was now in the same shoes her mother had been.
Mrs. Adegbite had also offered to take her in – to take care of her and the baby – but that was not what Anjola wanted. She was grateful for the help they offered but it was beyond that.
They just did not get it.
Her problem was far greater than getting help for the baby; she simply did not want it. She didn’t want any of this, which was the more reason why she wanted to have an abortion. The thought scared her stiff and nagged at her conscience but having the baby was even scarier, so abortion seemed like a necessary evil. She just wasn’t sure how to go about it or how she would get the money.
She needed to sit and really think. It was time to put her intelligence to good, practical use.
* * * *
“So that makes a total of two hundred and sixty-two thousand naira,” Victoria announced, recalculating the figures just to be sure.
“Woah, that’s amazing!” Samuel breathed, smiling very broadly and Victoria nodded, beaming herself. The others in the room were also smiling, clapping and chattering excitedly. They were two weeks away from the Aje outreach and had already gotten over three-quarter of their budget and were still expecting more.
They had been amazed by the response though they had gotten off to a slow, discouraging start. After they had spent over two weeks without getting even enough money for transportation, they had begun a separate prayer chain for finances alone. And though they hadn’t seen results in the first week, they kept at it and before they knew it, there was so much it seemed unbelievable.
Victoria had never seen God work like that before and she remembered the scripture Uncle Chidi had shared during one of their prayer sessions; about the time when the Israelites wanted to build the Ark of covenant and how God had ordered Moses to tell His people to give to it and the response had been so massive that Moses had to ask them to stop giving at a point.
God was replaying the same thing right before her eyes. And she was really excited about the outreach and the changes she could see in the youth group.
“So, does this means we can finally give them pizza?” Beverly’s quiet voice broke through the excitement and everyone laughed. For some reason, Beverly seemed to think giving them pizza at Aje would solve their problems.
“What? I’m telling you guys, that’s the solution to world peace. No one wants to believe me,” her eyes danced with humour.
“Of course we believe you, Bev. Why not serve jollof and dodo at UN meetings and end the world’s problems? You’re such a genius,” Ubong quipped and they all laughed.
“Okay, okay guys. No one is distributing pizza…or jollof or dodo,” Uncle Chidi raised his hand, smiling and the room fell silent. He looked into his notepad and cleared his throat, “Alright, new delegations.” He called each member and assigned them to various duties. And since Victoria was already the treasurer, he skipped her name.
After the meeting, she called Anjola and told her she’d stop at her place. She had been praying for her and not just about her predicament but also that she would get back to God. She had learned over the past few days, especially with her sister, that she needed to nag people less and pray for them more. She couldn’t change anybody and that truth had made more sense when she felt God telling her; It took only Me to change you.
And boy did she know it.
It had taken more than talks and self-will to bring her to the place she was. It had taken only God to do that. And yes, he had used some of those things but He had always been the one working. The least she could do for those she loved was to allow them also experience the beauty of being worked on by God, to get out of the way and allow God do His job.
Her exams were starting the next week and she still had a lot of ground to cover. She had promised to take some of her classmates a tutorial class the next day and she was yet to open the book. She sighed. The situation with Anjola had had its effect on her studies and she knew she wasn’t doing the tutorial class out of a desperate desire to help people but more out of a need to help herself. She learned faster by teaching.
Victoria gathered her things, preparing to leave and deliberately avoiding Samuel as she stepped out of the conference room. She knew he wanted to speak with her but she didn’t have strength for that just yet. She didn’t have the strength for boys yet.
“Hi,” Uncle Chidi greeted as he fell in step beside her.
He was silent for a few seconds before asking, “How is she doing?”
She sighed. “Not too well. I’ll be going to her place today.”
“Oh. Well, send her my regards,” his eyes filled slightly. “Tell her we’re praying for her.”
She nodded. “How’s Aunty Grace?”
His eyes lit up. “She’s doing well. She travelled to Aba for her cousin’s wedding.”
“Hmm! We’re waiting for both of you to bless us with jollof and wedding cake o,” she grinned.
Uncle Chidi chuckled, “So, you’ve ganged up with Bev and Ubong. Well done.”
“Oh and don’t forget to pay in that money tomorrow. I don’t want stories that touch the heart,” he said, referring to the money that had come from a member of their church earlier that day. They had agreed to allow all incomes enter the bank account before expenses to allow for accountability.
“Yeah, sure. I’ll do that.”
* * * *
Sorry I didn’t post episode 16 last week. This is to make up for that. Episode 17 will be on the blog on Friday as usual.
God’s grace to you!