A Friend in Need
I spent the greater part of the almost never-ending journey daydreaming—again—since I wasn’t ready to share my cogitations with anyone. It seemed the road stretched longer than normal. The afternoon sun beating hard on the bus made the heat unbearable yet I managed to keep a radiant face as I listened to those who had things to say. As if in a conspiracy to prolong my suspense, the weekend travellers had caused a gridlock on the highway. But this isn’t the first time we’re passing through this route. I wondered.
When we finally reached our destination, I fronted the team. Tayo had suggested that we all meet at an eatery but I’d objected. “I would be better if we met at Mrs Okafor’s house. She may have one or two motherly pieces of advice to give.” I had said, partly because it was true, and also because I would get to see the one my heart longed for. Everyone had consented to my advice.
Maria watched me with suspicion as I made all the moves and I knew if asked, she could tell that something was fishy.
“You are a good friend, Brother Femi.” Sister Mercy remarked.
“He really is.” Maria added. I gave them a squinted look, then paused to weigh their comments. I sensed a mixture of sarcasm and sincerity. ‘Whatever they meant.’ I said to myself, smiling thinly. I was too excited to worry about them; I just wanted to set my eyes on Debby.
I reached for the doorbell then suddenly withdrew my hand before I could press it. I was hearing strange sounds from within so I listened carefully. Snoring. Who could be snoring at this hour of the day?
“What is the matter?” Tayo asked. He was a snorer too so the sound couldn’t have meant much to him if he’d heard it. I remember how hard I used to hit him in his sleep whenever he started snoring. He snored so loud that I developed a strong hatred for snoring.
“I thought I heard something.” I answered, reaching forth to press the button before the ladies who were busy chatting behind us could suspect anything.
The lock turned from inside as Debby welcomed us. So, Debby was the one snoring like that!
“I’m sorry I kept you waiting.” She rubbed her palms on her face as if to drive the sleep away. “How long have you been here?”
“Not too long.” I replied, holding the door for all to go in.
“Did you have a stopover? We’ve been waiting for your arrival for the past 2 hours. I didn’t even know when I slept off.” She muttered as she made her way to tell of our arrival, not waiting for an answer.
I sat in a corner of the living room ruminating on what had just happened. Really? Debby was a snorer? I was pondering on that when Tolani walked in with Ben in her arms. Maria quickly stood up to embrace her. I’d overheard her say she’d love to meet the face behind the lovely voice she heard over the phone. She took Ben from Tolani’s hands and pecked him on the forehead.
Mrs Okafor came out of the room with her characteristic smile on her face. If one looked away from her protruding belly, she would look more like a teenager. Her contagious smile forced me to smile too.
“Hello everyone.” She greeted as she leaned on the sofa for support. We all responded in different ways. My mood swing worried my friends; the bubbling and active Brother Femi was now suddenly calm and not-talking. Two things were actually bothering me. First was the reminder that someone ran past me in the dream heading towards Debby. Could that mean I’d lost her to another person? The second thing that troubled me was that she was a snorer. If things worked out between us, was I going to spend the rest of my life with someone who will repeatedly do what I disliked the most, though unconsciously?
On a normal day, I would have done the introductions but when I didn’t, Tayo did. “This is Mrs Okafor,” he said, “She has been a mother to us in many ways. She’s a counsellor in the Youth Counselling Centre of the State Psychiatric Hospital. She’s also the wife of the youth leader in the church Tolani’s father pastors.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you ma.” Maria and Mercy chorused. “It’s nice to finally put a face to the name. I’ve heard so much about you ma.” Maria added.
“Whatever Tayo told you, I hope he didn’t overhype the details.” Mrs Okafor fixed her eyes on Maria. “You must be Maria,” she said, “And you are Mercy,” pointing in her friend’s direction.
“How do you manage to do that?” Tayo queried. “You didn’t need anyone to introduce us to you when we first met, and yet you knew I wasn’t Femi? How do you do it?”
“Trade secrets, my dear. Trade secrets.” She laughed it off.
“Well then, I’ll tell you what you may not know about them. Sister Maria is one of our beloved sisters in the fellowship and we recently discovered that she is also the daughter of my mother’s childhood friend.”
“That is an interesting discovery.” Mrs Okafor commented.
“Indeed. And this is Sister Mercy the choir director. She’s a PhD student, and she’s engaged to our Prayer Coordinator, Brother Festus, who is in his final year of medical school.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, sweethearts.” She came closer and patted their backs. “I see Maria and Ben are getting along so well,” she added when Benjamin chuckled as Maria tickled him. “I’ll let you discuss among yourselves while I take some time to relax.” She headed towards the kitchen which had a door that led to the backyard.
“Femi.” She called from the kitchen, “Could you please help me with my garden chair?” I excused myself from the gathering as I carried the chair and joined her at the backyard. The backyard had a small garden of vegetables. A short fence made of bamboo tree barricaded the portion from the walkway. “My hubby’s hobby is gardening.” I smiled and set the chair under the shade of a mango tree.
“Bring a chair for yourself too.” She added. “There’s something I’d like to discuss with you.” I’d feared this moment would come after the conversation I overheard her having with Debby some months ago. I’d noticed that Debby hadn’t shown up in the living room since we arrived, which was a big relief for me. I returned as quickly as I disappeared settling my chair in front of hers.
“How much are you going to charge me for this session?” I joked.
“How much can you afford?” She teased, adjusting in her chair. “How were your final exams?”
“Fine, so far. I have just one more paper to write but that comes up in two weeks’ time.”
“Two weeks.” She smiled, nodded complacently and looked away.
“Yes, two weeks. Why did you smile like that?”
“Did I smile? Well, maybe because my due date is in two weeks too.”
“Early congratulations ma.”
“Thank you.” She sat up as if to make herself more comfortable, then turned to me and cleared her throat before asking, “What are you doing about marriage?” Even before she asked, I could almost guess what her question would be.
“Watching and praying.” I answered as we both giggled at my response.
“So, what open visions have you seen and what still small voice have you heard?” She relaxed back into the chair, trying to take a more comfy posture. She shut her eyes and pressed her lips against each other. “I’m listening to you.” She reassured.
“At this time, I need more of your prayers. I’m perceiving some things but I don’t want to be too forward.” I paused to hear her reply but she gave none. I misinterpreted her silence to mean that she wasn’t satisfied with my answer, so I continued, “I had a dream—”
“Help me call Debby.” She interrupted.
“No ma. I don’t think that is a good idea.” I protested softly. “I saw her in just a dream but I can’t say I’ve prayed through on it.”
“Femi!” She barked, “Call me Debby. I think my water just broke.”
“Which water?” I asked, utterly confused. “I mean—”
“Debby!!” She screamed. It was then I understood that it had to do with her pregnancy.
Debby rushed out of the house at the sound of her name. I stood up as others came outside too asking different questions. “She’s fine,” Debby answered, “But we need to get her to the hospital immediately.”
We all assisted to get Mrs Okafor to the car. Debby drove while Tolani accompanied them to the hospital. The rest of us had to wait till they returned since we couldn’t leave with Benjamin.
“Let’s listen to Tayo’s love story.” I proposed.