Narrow Escape - Final Episode

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I dialed her number nervously, wondering what her response would be. It rang unanswered twice. I dialed the number for the third time to satisfy the voice of accusation in my head not really expecting an answer.

"What do you want," her voice jolted me from my thoughts. 
"Ehm..."
"Please speak up, I have work to do" she rebuked me sharply.
"I'm sorry, I sincerely want to apologise for yesterday"
"Uh-huh, what exactly are you apologising for?" She replied. I could hear a hint of sarcasm in her voice.
"For the way everything ended last night and the way I left. It wasn't my intention to hurt you."
"I've heard" she responded indifferently.
"Please what can I do to make it up to you?"
"Nothing"
"Please, Mela, tell me what you'll have me do to make up for my wrongs," I asked for the second time.
I had told God that morning that I'd ask her four times and I'll do whatever she required of me, even if meant sex.
"Nothing" she replied again.
I went on to ask the same question in different forms for the third and fourth times. Her reply remained "Nothing."
"Okay, I just needed to be sure you're alright"
"I'm fine, thanks. I have to go now."
She hung up before I could say another word. That was the last time we ever spoke.

***

It's been five weeks since the incident with Mela and to be honest it has been one of the toughest weeks of my life. I didn't know that the Mela incident was merely the introduction to the real test of my faith.

In the aftermath of the incident, I battled with a deep sense of guilt and unworthiness. The evil one messed with my mind reminding me every time that I had given in to lust and failed God. 

In the first week, I struggled to pray all I could do was ask for mercy. I almost believed the lie of the devil that I had lost my calling and place in God.

My friends came through for me, praying with and for me and constantly countering my doubts with scriptures and words of encouragement. I'm eternally grateful to them.

I still have a long way to go in fully recovering but fellowship with the Father has been restored.

I've been brought face to face with my weakness and I had succumbed but God's mercies lifted me and I'm up stronger than I was before the fall.

THE END

True Story or Fiction


I've been getting this question from curious readers since I started writing this series.

The correct answer is both. It's a true story with a generous sprinkling of fiction. A dear friend of mine shared his experience with me and I made it into a story with his permission adding touches of fiction here and there.

Relevant Lessons

1. Pray so that you will not fall into temptation: Never be down on fire and if you happen to be hide yourself because at that point you are most vulnerable. Prayerlessness amplifies the voice of the flesh and dulls your spiritual sensitivity. Whenever you are distant from the father you are most vulnerable.

2. Flee from any appearance of evil, do not manage evil or lust. If Nathan had kept his distance from Mela especially since he knew her intentions he would have not fallen into temptation.
Do not accommodate lust and flee from one who accommodates it.

3. Accountability: Always have an association of people you can talk to. If Nathan was a loner he would have gone down faster but it was easier to keep himself in check because his friends were aware of his dealings with Mela. They also served as a channel for salvation and quick refreshing for him after the incident. The Christian life cannot be lived in isolation so please find close Christian friends that can keep you accountable.

4. No matter how secure you are in your faith, do not give the devil an opportunity to tempt you or as my mum puts it "do not create an occasion for sin." "Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he falls." If Nathan had kept to his principle and refused to go to Mela's place that night, the story would have been different.

5. Take your weaknesses into account and give the devil no place. Nathan had an immoral past and so lust was still a weakness for him. If he took his weakness into account, he would have avoided Mela after their first meeting.

6. Never forgo your spiritual disciplines: The daily prayers, consumption of the word, and fastings help to cleanse you of infectious thoughts and strengthen you for viral attacks because attacks will surely come.

7. Never forget the grace of God when you fall: His forgiveness is real and as long as you still believe in Him, repent and wholly turn to Him, your call is still in place.
The devil will try to hold you down with guilt even after you've repented of your sin, don't give in to him. You're already forgiven, and when God forgives, he forgets.

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Narrow Escape 5


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The last time I had a physical conversation with my friends was during the retreat three weeks ago. We lived in different cities and met few times in a year during family occasions and our quarterly retreat. Though we couldn't meet as often as we used to back in school, our constant chats and conference calls on WhatsApp made up for the distance. 

We hardly do normal network calls so I was surprised when my phone rang that morning and the caller ID showed Kyrian.

"Guy, how far. I spoke into the receiver

"I dey o, how your side"

"Very well, this one wey you dey call me this morning, any news"

"Not really, I just wanted to check on you"

"Hian, since when that one start"

"Oga shift, because I say make I check on you this morning, you wan come dey feel important"

"Yes na"

"Dey there dey whine yourself. The thing is, you've been on my mind since I woke up this morning. I texted you on WhatsApp but you haven't been online so I decided to call. Hope you're fine"

"Yes, I'm fine o. I turned off my data to enable me to read without distractions. I still have so much to cover and you know the PG entrance exam is next month. Aside from that everything is alright, no worries. How's Enugu treating you"

"Enugu is fine. You'll be home the whole day studying abi you dey comot."

"I'll be indoors for most of the day, but I'll go out later in the evening to see Mela"

"Mela? The girl from the wedding, right?

"Yes we've been chatting"

"Ah-ahh! Give me gist na"

"Nothing is going on between us. She's a nice person and very boxed up too but she's not our kind."

"Obviously she's not. Just be careful"

"Alright bro, thanks for the call"

The call ended and I went back to my studies

***

"How far, I've been expecting to hear from you"

"I'm so sorry dear, work has been quite tasking today"

"Oh, sorry about that. Are we still meeting today"

"Sure, but it will be a bit later than planned. My hair bundles just arrived and I'll have to stop by the airport to pick them up. But I should be done latest at 6pm. Hope you don't mind."

"It's no problem at all. Go and attend to business, the money is important."

"Abi now" she replied laughing "thanks for understanding" she continued.

"You're welcome"

"See you soon"

"Alright" I replied ending the call. I now had an hour to kill before meeting with Mela. I had spent almost the entire day reading and needed a break. One hour of gaming sounded like a good idea so I headed to the living room to get on with it.

***

"I'm close to your junction, start coming out" the SMS read

My phone's vibration had forced me to look away from the TV screen for the first time. 

"What!!!!" I screamed dropping my pad.

"What's the problem, Nate?" Mum asked stepping out of the kitchen as she heard my shout."

"I didn't know time had gone this far" I replied.

"Is that why you screamed like that? Please don't give high blood pressure before my time" she scolded.

"I'm sorry I didn't mean to scare you. It's just that I was supposed to meet a friend earlier, I didn't know the time had gotten to 6:30pm"

"When you'll put your entire being into a game, how will you know the time" she hissed and went back into the kitchen.

I hurriedly put away my gaming equipment and headed out.


It was 6:45pm by the time I got to the junction and Mela was already waiting.

"I'm so sorry I kept you waiting," I apologized as soon as I got into the car.

"What happened"

"Nothing o, I was already dressed when I called you earlier so I had extra time on my hands when we rescheduled. I decided to pass the time with PS4, and I don't even know how time flew so fast."

"No problems, so where are we going"

"Oh, I thought you had that planned out"

"No, I was too busy to plan anything."

"Ndo, anywhere is okay as long as their shawarma is good.

"You're just so strange, see me thinking that the shawarma craze was reserved for the female gender," she said laughing

"Because na only them get mouth to chop better thing abi"

"Before nko" she replied still laughing. "How about we go grab shawarma, ice cream, and popcorn and then head to my place for gist and movies."

"Doesn't sound bad at all. But you know I won't be able to stay long because it's already getting late."

"I know, so...."

"I'm in, let's do that"

We got the shawarma and went to Mela's place.


Mela lived at Federal Housing Estate, Egbeada; the part of town reserved for the elites. Her one-bedroom apartment had all the markings of her upper-middle-class financial status. I was more than impressed.

"Welcome to my house"

"Your humble abode abi" I replied making quotation marks with my fingers.

"Nollywood clichΓ© that year, thank God we've grown past that" she responded chuckling.

"The thing became annoyingly boring at some point, I wonder how they did not realise that."

"You're talking as if they properly edit their movies those days" switching on the TV as she spoke

"Here," she said handing me the remote. "Make yourself comfortable, I'll be out shortly" she continued going into the house.

I scrolled through the channel list, switching from channel to channel absentmindedly as I waited for her to come. She came out a few minutes later holding a tray and two plastic spoons. She had changed into shorts and a tank top.

"Still not found a channel to watch," she asked as she laid out our meal on the tray and sat beside me on the sofa placing the tray on her lap.

"Not yet" I replied turning to pick shawarma from the tray.

She took the remote from me and settled for African Magic Family where the "My siblings and I" series was being aired. I had not seen any episode of the series so she explained the plot to me as we ate.

When we finished eating, she placed the tray on the centre table, moved closer to me, and placed her head on my shoulder. I had not been that close to a female in nearly seven years and I felt my body react as she caressed my arms.

"What are you doing?" I asked removing her hand.

"I want you"

"You know you can't have me, we've talked about this."

"Just this once please" she pleaded.

"No please, I can't"

"Okay, I get it, no sex but we could cuddle."

I was quiet.

"Nate, I had a very stressful day today, please just see it as you helping me relieve the stress" she continued.

I knew I had to leave but a war of voices was going on in my head. 

"You have to leave this place," the still small voice said.

"No you can't go, it will be harsh of you to do so. The girl is just stressed what's the big deal in cuddling with her" the other voice admonished loudly.

"I don't know how to cuddle" I replied to her.

"You know that's not true," she said looking at me like a hurting child, her hands were back on my arms.

I should be able to handle this since it's just to cuddle. If I leave her now she'd be hurt and it'll probably affect her self-esteem. I'll just cuddle her for a few minutes until she's relieved and then I'll leave. I reasoned to myself.

"Alright, just cuddling" I replied

We laid side by side on the sofa, her hands wrapped around me. My body reacted widely, things I haven't felt for years resurfaced and I fought hard to retain control. Then she kissed me and I lost all sense of control. I returned the kiss and my hands were beginning to wander when like one bitten by a scorpion, I snapped into my senses and pulled away from her.

"I'm so sorry Mela, I didn't mean for it to go that far" I apologized standing up from the sofa with speed.

"Why are you trying to spoil things, I thought we were both enjoying it," she said sitting up

"I can't do this please, I have to go now, I'm sorry for starting something I can't finish"

"Please don't go, Nate, please" she pleaded, pulling off her tank top as she came towards me.

I moved away from her, averting my eyes at the sight of her bare body.

She came after me, holding on to my hands.

"Please, Nate don't look away, just touch me, that's all I'm asking."

"I can't please, just let me go" I pleaded.

"Okay, just three minutes, please. I promise it won't go beyond that" she begged, dragging my hand towards her chest.

"No, please no" I replied pulling myself free from her hold and racing towards the door.

She looked at me silently for a while and then came to let me out. 

"I'm sorry about everything," I said as she opened the door.

She made no reply but immediately I stepped out of the door she held onto my hand attempting to pull me back in. I wrestled myself free from her and walked out of the compound as fast as my leg could carry me.

***

I had to find my way home that night. I was grateful I had come out with enough money for my fare.

I was trembling when I got home. I went straight to bed but I could not sleep. My mind messed with me playing images of what might have happened if I had stayed back. I felt I had wronged her by getting her aroused and leaving her high and dry. 

I tried to pray but the words would not come, I just kept mumbling "Jesus, help me." 

The loud voice tormented me incessantly. "You're a wicked person, see how you left her hurting upon all her begging. You know how vulnerable ladies are and you got her stirred up and left her like that. Where is your love for your neighbour? Couldn't you have just sacrificed your principles and satisfy her emotional needs? Is that not what love does? Or did you not see in your Bible that love is not self-seeking?"

I couldn't shut out the voice, it went on and on and drowned my reasoning until I made up my mind to call her the next morning and do whatever she required of me to make it up no matter what she demanded.

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Narrow Escape 4

 

The God Stories

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"I missed you"

"Hmm..."

"Are you trying to say you didn't miss me"

"Aunty we've been chatting almost all day"

"Like I don't know, but it can't be the same as having you around"

"Oh" I replied trying to be careful with my words.

"You're trying to play dumb with me abi"

"Nah..., Just trying to hear you out"

"You know I like you, right?"

"The way you boldly said it to my face the first time we met can not easily be forgotten"

"Lol, I needed to get your attention"

"And you sure did"

"How about my offer of being more than friends, any consideration?"

"Ah ah, that was supposed to be a joke na"

"Not exactly, I made it into a joke when I saw the expression on your face that day"

"I see. But I already told you my stand that day."

"So you're saying it has not changed?"

"See eh, it's not that I don't like you o. I just can't be in a relationship with you and besides, you have a boyfriend last time I checked."

I had found out she had a boyfriend the day after we went to the movies.

"Oh, Chuks, It's not something serious"

"Uh-huh, and you were out with him until past midnight just four days ago."

"That was no big deal, we just happened to stay out later than usual and that was because I spent the evening with you."

"Bia, I can't seem to understand you this lady. You have a boyfriend and here you are proposing to be more than friends with me. I don't get it."

"I'm with Chuks just for the fun of it, there's really no commitment there"

"So why are you still with him"

"I just told you, for fun"

"Hehe, so let's say I'm interested in your offer, what will be my position? Side boo, side bobo abi side cockerel"

"Lol, I've actually not thought in that line. But you'll probably be the main guy and Chuks will be the side boo."

"I hear"

"I'm serious, that's what I am to him so it's even if I make him that too."

"Wait, you mean Chuks is in a serious relationship with someone else and you're cool with it."

"He's married"

"For real?" I replied adding a shocked face emoji

"Yes, he has two kids"

"Wow"

I dropped my phone in amazement. It became evident to me that I didn't know Mela. It was rather foolish of me to have thought that three weeks of intensive conversation could make me know a person. Mela was beautiful, likeable, and had a very attractive personality but her motives were difficult to decipher most of the time. 

I picked up the phone after a few seconds and saw her message asking if I was still with her.

"I'm here" I replied

"You went quiet"

"I was just wondering why"

"Why what?"

"Why you are seeing a married man. I know it's not for money because you have more than enough of that and if you wanted more your parents would readily supply. You have a good job, a great business, and can afford 'the good life' all at a young age. So why?"

"I guess I just wanted to explore all options and enjoy my youth to the fullest"

I could imagine her shrugging as she typed that.

"Your idea of enjoyment sha, hope you remember you'll be married someday"

"Nwoke, calm down. It's not like I went after him, he was the one that came chasing after me, and who am I to pass up an opportunity to enjoy. Besides spending another person's money feels good plus his expertise in handling the affairs of the other room makes it worthwhile."

"I'm speechless"

"Aww..., No need to be. It's not something uncommon or strange."

"I know it happens but I didn't think it's something you'd do"

"Please let's go back to talking about us and leave Chuks alone"

"What about us"

"My proposal is still standing"

"I told you it's completely off the table"

"Why? You can't say you're not attracted to me because I know you are."

"It's not an issue of attraction. First, we are very different persons, our beliefs are opposing and we don't move in the same circles. Secondly, I'm not ready for a relationship, it's not yet the time for me so even if we shared the same values I wouldn't still have dated you."

"Haba! We can make it work na. All you have to do is to minimize your Jesus talk and we're good to go."

"You know that's not possible"

"It is if you give it a chance"

"That's the point, I can't give it a chance. And I don't even see what you stand to gain from dating me, it's not like I can do the things you'd expect a regular boyfriend to do with you."

"Wonders! You never cease to amaze me."

"You shall yet be amazed" I replied smiling as I typed.

"But really, you're just so strange. Do you know how ladies are tripping for guys that are not even half as fine as you are? And here you are with well-set face and body, wasting it in the name of Christianity."

"So you think" I replied smiling to myself.

Unknown to her, I had been a master marksman merely six years ago. I had been skilled in the use of enticing words which when combined with my looks successfully shattered the defense of any lady I looked upon. I was so good at it that other guys came to me for consultation. But somehow God had found me and pulled me out of that emptiness and though the desires of the flesh would sometimes try to rear its head, I was determined never to go back to the place from which I had been redeemed.


My mum's voice announcing that dinner was ready pulled me out of my thoughts.

"I'm coming" I replied unlocking my phone."

Mela: "Can we see? Are you there?"

"I'm here, when?" I replied

"Tonight"

"Check your time"

"I know it's late but it would be brief"

"No, we can't see today. Maybe tomorrow."

"Alright, tomorrow is fine."

"See you tomorrow"

"Yea, I can't wait to see you."

I didn't reply. I turned off my data and went to join mum for dinner.


My spirit was troubled. I had woken up by 2am to pray as usual but I couldn't pray. As I struggled to find the right words, I heard the still small voice:

"Going to see Mela is not a good idea, do not go"

"Why" I responded sounding defensive.

"She proposes a romantic relationship with you and at the same time asks to see you. Don't you think something is up?"

"No, I have no reason to think so"

"Consider it carefully, what if she tries something funny?"

"What can she possibly do? We'll be in a public space na"

"Sure? You are attracted to her and you both know it. Will you be able to resist her if it comes to that?"

"Why not? She won't even do anything of such because she knows my stand on the issue and if it gets to that I'll take my leave."

"You are sure about that?"

"Ehmm....Yes," I replied unsure of myself.

The voice went quiet but I still couldn't pray beyond muttering a few words that felt empty. It went on and on until I fell asleep.

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Narrow Escape 3

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I heard my phone beep as soon as I stepped out of the shower. I picked it up knowing it would be Mela.
"How far, have you left the house"
"Not yet, getting ready. Just showered." I replied immediately.
"Alright, I'm almost done from work. Just wait for me by fire service junction, I'll pick you up there."
"Alright, see you soon" I texted back and dropped the phone to prepare for my first meeting with Mela after the wedding.

In the past two weeks since the wedding, I and Mela had chatted almost non-stop daily. It started on the night of the wedding with a WhatsApp text notification on my phone at about 9:00pm that read "Hey Cutie, this is Mela from the wedding. Hope you got home safely." That was the beginning of an endless stream of conversations.
The only days we didn't speak were the three days I took off for my retreat, which was something she didn't seem to understand.
Peripherally we had enough in common to keep our gist going, we both had a great love for gist, theatre, and shawarma. But when it came to belief systems, principles, and the fundamental disciplines that define a person's character, we were almost as different as day and night.

It didn't take much to realize that though we both belonged to the Christian Faith, our belief and practise of the Faith couldn't be more conflicting. 
Whereas my Faith defined the entirety of my life, her's was the kind of faith that existed for two hours on a Sunday morning faithfully sitting in a pew and an additional 30 minutes of pictures for the gram after which it gets quickly hidden under the carpet where it remains until the next Sunday. Our worldviews were entirely different.

I liked her personality though and enjoyed our conversations. I had even convinced myself that there was no harm in being friends and that perhaps I could win her over. I mean we're supposed to reach out to the unsaved not avoid them, right? I reasoned.

We were going to see a movie. She had suggested the outing as her way of "saving me from the boredom of staying at home 24/7" in her words. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Though I was content with keeping my own company most of the time, I hung out a lot with my guys and was far from being bored. I just didn't run a busy schedule like she did ( most likely because I wasn't working yet) and our ideas of fun diverged after shawarma, movies, and gist.

"Oh wow!" I whispered to myself as the burgundy Lexus SUV parked in front of me. I knew from our chats that she owned a car but not in my wildest imagination did I expect a Lexus. She was obviously more well off than I expected.
"Nice ride," I said as I climbed into the front passenger seat.
"Yea, that's one of the pecks of having a car dealer for a dad. I like the look of surprise on your face though." She replied laughing.
"No wonder You caught me sha, I just wasn't expecting it. But your dad's not here, right?"
"What's the distance between Owerri and Port Harcourt"
"Oh, see soft life, I want to be like you when I grow up" I joked.
"Whatever. So we finally get to meet" she responded still laughing
"Someone that hears you now will think we've never met"
"We've not na, or are you counting our meeting at the wedding"
"Yes, why not?"
"Nah, that doesn't count"
"If you say so, how was work today?"
"It was okay, same as usual"
"I guess I altered your schedule today, if you were not meeting me now, you would have been heading the store."
She owned a large luxury beauty store, which she ran with the help of hired hands. She would normally close from her job at the bank by 5pm and then head straight to the store.
"Yea, and would have met you later if you were not so anti-night hangouts. Weird guy"
The last part was whispered under her breathe.
"I heard that"
"Are you not weird"
"No, I'm not. I just do not hang out with ladies alone at night."
"Hmm... I guess this has to do with your whole idea of living like you're in the 19th century in the name of Christianity."
"God's Way does not change, it wasn't meant for just the 19th century."
"Uh-huh, look around you, does the world look remotely like it used to look just 100 years ago. Oga people have moved on, even the Pastors too. Stop being an extremist."
"Extremist ke. I'm not being an extremist at all, I m being a normal Christian, and I know a whole lot of persons like me."
"Wonders! I can imagine how boring your lives will be. What is life without clubbing and partying after all the stress of work? God sef cannot be that mean."
"You know so?"
" Wo!, It's you that's carrying it on your head o. What I know is that God understands. He knows our weaknesses, even the Bible says so."
"Oshe, she dey quote Bible sef. Didn't the Bible also say 'Be you holy, just as I am Holy"

"Welcome ma," the security guard said handing her a plastic card at the entrance of the Mall.
"Thank you" she responded, collecting the card from the security guard as we drove into the premises of the mall.

"Biko, don't come and spoil my evening with your preaching like you did the other day on chat"
"Na you first start" I replied laughing as we alighted from the car and walked towards the part of the mall that housed the cinema.
"I booked our tickets online while at work, so we won't have to queue up"
"Wow, that was very thoughtful of you, I just hope the Shawarma place is not crowded"
"Why not we do it this way. You get smoothies, I'll get the shawarma and we'll meet at the entrance of the cinema"
"Good idea"
And with that, we parted ways temporarily.

I would be a liar to say I didn't enjoy my time with Mela because I totally did. Our gist flowed endlessly but would always hit a sour point whenever the issue of God was raised and so we avoided it for most of the night.
She dropped me off at about 7:30pm and I assumed she was heading home to retire for the night. I texted her after a while to thank her for the evening but didn't get a reply which was unlike her, so I figured she was probably still driving. I decided I'll check on her before going to bed.

I called severally at intervals but I didn't get any response. I texted, no response. I was beginning to worry but there was no other way to reach her.
I slept off and woke up at about 2am to pray and study. My phone notification light was blinking and when I picked it up I saw a text from her. It read "Hey, I'm kinda busy, we'll talk tomorrow" and ended with a blown kiss emoji.
I saw that the text had come in at 12:39pm. Quite Odd. I knew she kept late nights but not this late, particularly on a workday.
What could be wrong?

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Narrow Escape 2

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"Hi," she said smiling easily, simultaneously pulling out the chair beside me to my left. Kyrian and Ebuka were sitting by my right.

"Hello" I replied a bit nervous, silently praying she wouldn't notice.

"I'm sorry I interrupted your conversation with your friends, I just had to talk to you"

"It's not a problem, we weren't discussing something serious"

"I'm Mela, Pamela actually but I'm more used to being called Mela"

"I'm Nathan" I replied

"Cute name, just like your dancing. You're a good dancer you know."

"Hmmm"

"Yea, I watched you dance throughout. I was actually enjoying myself up until you saw me and ran away like a scared puppy"

From the corners of my eyes, I saw Kyrian and Ebuka exchange glances while stifling laughter and making a great show of concentrating on their phones. I knew too well that they were listening to the conversation even though we were talking in low tones.

"I didn't run away"

"Ah-ha, you want me to believe that?"

"Yea, why not"

"You walked away from the stage almost immediately we made eye contact, and deliberately hid in this corner."

My phone beeped, I picked it up to turn off the data connection and saw that Ebuka had typed "omo, babe dey chyke our man o" on our group chat. He was grinning from ear to ear and I was sure they were having a good time dissecting my matter.

"First of all, I didn't run away" I began. "I had been dancing for a while and was tired so I left," I said putting up a bold front, determined not to let her catch me nervous.

And secondly, I'm not hiding, I just needed a crowd-free place to cool off" I continued

"Oh really" she scoffed, "anyway what matters is that I found you"

"Found me?"

"Yep, I followed you with my eyes when you left the stage but I lost sight of you after the coolers. And I've been looking out for you since then."

"Why?" I asked in surprise, sounding more forceful than I intended to.

"Why what?"

"Why were you looking for me?"

"Well, because I like you"

"You what?"

"I like you." She repeated confidently wearing that sly smile again.

"Una dey here dey form ajebo, food go finish o" Nedu mocked, interrupting our conversation as he and Victor approached the table each carrying a wide ceramic plate fully loaded with a combination of fried and jollof rice, fried chicken dripping with sauce and coleslaw.

My stomach growled involuntarily at the sight and aroma of the food. I had not had anything to eat since the day began.

"Leave them na..." Victor made to continue the mockery but stopped short as he sighted her and shot me an "I know what's going on here look" as he took his seat.

Kyrian and Ebuka stood up and headed for the buffet stand, I saw that the queue had thinned down considerably.

"Hi, don't mind this boy that is forming tush, hope you've had something to eat," Victor said addressing Mela and offering a handshake.

"Yes I have, thank you" she replied taking his hands.

"Correct babe, let me leave you to your conversation and attend to the task before me" he joked and turned his attention to his plate.

"That was pretty forward," I said picking up the conversation from where we stopped.

"Sorry?"

"I mean what you said earlier, it was very forward"

"That's me for you, I see what I like and I go for it. I don't see the point of beating around this bush"

"Wow, you're quite interesting"

"I know right"

"So, what is it you want from me?"

"To be friends or maybe more than friends"

"Oh wow. Is this a joke or you're serious?"

"I came searching for you, how serious can I get?

The alarm bells rang louder in my head. I was blessed with a fine face and body structure, both tools I greatly used to my advantage while I was in the world. I was used to ladies throwing passes at me but non had ever walked up to my face to boldly state her intentions. This was new to me and even though danger warnings were going off inside of me, a hidden part of me was thrilled at the thought of what sounded like an adventure.

"Friends I can do, but anything beyond friends is off the table" I began slowly after a brief silence while trying to convince myself that no harm could come from being friends.

"You might change your mind about that"

"No, I won't"

"Sure"

"Yes"

"Hmm... Alright, friends it is then"

My stomach growled again.

"It seems I'll have to let you attend to your stomach, it sounds unhappy with me" she laughed.

I smiled.

"Here, new friend, your number please," she said handing her phone to me.

"Not to worry, 'friends' is fine for me. I wasn't serious about the 'more' part"

"You're a weird lady" I replied typing in my number and standing up as I did so.

She laughed, took her phone from me, and walked with me to the buffet stand before heading back to her table to join her friends.

I moved around in a haze for the rest of the party my meeting with Pamela felt like a dream but I knew it was real.

The guys had a good time teasing me and making jokes at my expense. I laughed along in a bid to hide the uneasiness I felt but Kyrian picked it.

"Bro, you have to be very careful with that lady, she sounds like trouble. Remember you're not in top form" Kyrian said.

The laughter quieted immediately as the others calmly made their opinions known all agreeing with Kyrian in varying degrees.

Kyrian was right, I wasn't in top form spiritually. I had been isolated from the kind of fellowship I was used to for a long time and my prayer life had declined.

We had talked about it and had a three-day retreat scheduled for the coming week. I reasoned that would be enough to get me back to form. I should have known better.

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Narrow Escape 1

I was torn between guilt, grief, self-loathing, and a strong desire for that which was forbidden. A terrible combination of emotions plaguing one man. I had almost done the unthinkable and my spirit was greatly troubled. 

The issue was not whether I committed the act or not, the issue was that I had expected it,  craved it, and even created an enabling environment for it. And even though I had narrowly escaped falling, the craving was still playing games with my mind. A craving I thought I had overcome years ago.

***

I met her at my aunt's wedding a month ago. She was the kind of girl every man would fall for big, bold, beautiful, and independent. No, I didn't ask her out, not because I wasn't tempted to, but because I wasn't ready to date yet and I didn't do flings. Add that to the fact that her looks alone were screaming "too hot to handle" making alarm bells ring incessantly in my head. Unfortunately, I didn't heed the warning.

***

The wedding was my first outing since my return and I was having the time of my life dancing like a drunken man with friends and family members whom I had not seen for over a year since I left for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps. 

I had served in a remote village up north and had been far removed from friends and family so it was more like a reunion for me. I was not just happy, I bristled with an excitement that surprised even me, and danced with the freedom of a bird released from her cage.

I had danced non-stop for close to an hour when I felt it, that intuitive feeling that you were being watched. I was dancing in front of a crowd of party guests so of course I had an audience of merry watchers but it wasn't that. It was the watchfulness of one whose entire focus was on you as though attempting to look into your very soul.

I quickly scanned the audience, the guests were so many and I didn't think I would easily find the watcher, but just as I was about turning away my eyes caught hers seated somewhere in the middle row, eyes wholly on me, a sly smile tugging at her lips. 

A shiver ran down my spine as I held her eyes for a few seconds, and as swiftly as I had found her eyes I looked away. walking off the stage uneasily, I headed straight for the coolers to get myself a drink fully aware she was still watching.

Drink in hand, I zigzagged through several groups of clustered guests scrambling for food and securely lodged myself into a corner glad to have finally gotten away from the stare.

I sat quietly sipping my drink and replying to texts on my phone. 

"Guy how far na" I heard Kyrian's voice and looked up to see him approaching me.

Kyrian was one of my closest friends. You wouldn't be far from the truth if you called him my best friend but I've never been a fan of the phrase 'best friend' and besides, I had three other close friends: Nedu, Victor, and Ebuka. The five of us became friends in our first year at the university and have since evolved to brothers though I met Kyrian first and that somehow made me closer to him. 

We were not just friends, we were partners in business, study, prayers. We did almost everything together, in fact, we were all wearing matching outfits for the wedding with caps to match. You can imagine the scene we created dancing the way we did.

"I dey o, anything" I responded.

"You no tell me say you dey comot, I just turn come begin find you."

"I don taya jare, you know since wey I don dey dance na. I sure say some people go dey wonder wetin I drink."

"Omo... Guy, you killed it sha, Somto been dey video us with my phone, the videos funny die"

Somto was my 12 year old cousin whose greatest delight was hanging out with the guys acting all grown up.

"Make I see, hope say e clear" 

Kyrian played one of the videos and we both burst into laughter watching the spectacle we made of ourselves.

I caught sight of Nedu and the others making small talks at a distance and looking around and I instinctively knew they were looking for us so I waved and called out to them.

"Guys! Una don chop?" Nedu asked as soon as he got to us. We all loved food but Nedu was the chief resident foodie.

"No o, dey don dey share food," Kyrian asked

"Yes na, see queue for buffet there na" he said.

"Ah, I don dey go, I no want hear say food finish I no chop" Victor who had been engrossed with his phone and making small talks with Ebuka suddenly interjected and made to leave.

"Guy me I no get the strength to stand for line, I go just wait make the line reduce small," I said eyeing the long queues at the two buffet stands.

We argued over what decision was best for us: wait for the queues to thin down and risk not getting food or go join the queue.

In the end, the greater food lovers Nedu and Victor went to join the queue and the rest of us chose to wait.

"Oga, na you dey give me the confidence to wait here like this if food finish you go sort us out o" Ebuka shot at me immediately they were out of earshot.

"Guy, go stand for line o, no be me say make you no go collect food o"

"No worries on my part, if food finishes all road leads to Nathan's house. After all na him aunty dey do wedding so extra food go dey house." Kyrian responded nonchalantly.

"Guy e go shock you say you no go see...

I turned sharply at a gentle tap on my shoulders, words still hanging in my mouth, and was struck dumb for a few seconds because standing just behind my seat was the owner of the beautiful pair of eyes that had stared into mine earlier.

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Pickpockets, Scammers and Everything in Between 3

Friday Morning

I can't recall all that happened that morning before I left home but I remember the weather rather cold so  I had to wear a sweatshirt. My favorite brown sweatshirt.

After waiting in vain for a direct vehicle, I boarded a cab heading to the next bus stop where I'd board another that'll take me to the office.

Asides from change hassles with the driver that caused him to take me farther than my bus stop in a different direction, the first half of my journey was nothing out of the usual.

I half-ran back to my bus stop because I was running out of time. Luckily for me, a cab pulled up in front of me just as I was getting there.


"Kaduna road" I called out to the driver.

"Enter"

I entered the back of the cab and quickly took in my fellow passengers (as I thought they were). A fair middle-aged looking man with grey hair sat at one end,  followed by a younger-looking dark man and a big fair lady before me.  A tall dark man sat in the front passenger seat beside the driver who was equally tall, and fair.

In my usual manner, I took out my phone and began reading from where I stopped the day before after I was seated as comfortable as one can be in a public cab.

About seven minutes into the journey, a conversation ensued between the driver and the middle-aged man:

"Driver, abeg I wan drop"

"Who wan drop"

"Me" the man responded as the driver turned to look at him, slowing down the vehicle.

"Oga, na you wan drop"

"Yes, I wan drop sir and I get load for back"

"Which load"

"The big ghana-must-go"

"Oga na you get that ghana-must-go? I no go drop you."

"It's my bag sir, I want to drop."

"Where you dey when I dey drop those women wey carry children bicycle for Giri"

"I was here sir." (The way he deferred to the driver caught my attention).

"You been no hear when I dey ask who get the bag"

"I didn't hear sir"

"Oga, park car drop your passenger na, time no dey, I dey go work" the big fair lady interjected. 

I turned and looked at her in her unkempt hair, ripped jeans, casual polo, and rubber slippers and silently wondered what kind of work she did. I quickly resumed my reading determined not to be drawn into the conversation.

"I no go drop am, you no wetin dey for that back. In fact, oga tell them wetin dey inside your bag"

"Na only my clothes sir" the man responded.

"Which cloth? You know wetin this man carry for ghana-must-go?" The driver asked looking in my direction.

I pretended not to hear him and continued reading my book. Seeing that I did not respond, he continued after a brief pause:

"When I drop those women for Giri, as I dey carry their children bicycle comot for boot, the hand hook the zip of the bag, na money full am."

At that point, I knew I had entered a vehicle of scammers (popularly known as 419).

"I no go drop am, he must talk where he carry all that money from"

"Please sir, just help me" the middle-aged man pleaded.

I made a great show of concentrating on my book as I listened to their fake conversation. By now the car had nearly been brought to a halt, the engine purring softly in the background.

"Oga, if you say na money full the bag, no be wetin we go solve for here na, make we just dey go police station straight" the lady spoke up again referring to the driver.

"Na wetin we go do be that, I no go drop this man, from here na police station I go drive go" he replied glancing at me.

The two other men in the vehicle remained as quiet and speechless as statues to my surprise.

"Driver if na police station una wan go, no problem but I'm not going with you guys. I'm going to work and you're already making me late with this nonsense talk. If you want to go the to police station you can go ahead but please drop me."

"Who be that wey wan come down," he barked, feigning ignorance.

"Me, please park well and drop me"

"If you wan drop make you drop na, person hold you abi dem dey beg you to stay."

"Oga, park well make I drop abeg"

He pulled the car to a halt seeing that I was serious.

Immediately I alighted and paid, the creeping car took off at a high speed nearly knocking me down. One would think the "police station" was running away.

I flagged down and boarded another cab and complex my journey, grateful that I had escaped being scammed. I had been saved from suffering a second loss, which would have been worse than the first. My Tuesday experience flashed through my mind and I knew that indeed the Lord had answered.

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Read Part 1 and Part 2