THE CHURCH GIRL
Copyright © Ufuomaee
Ifeanyi was a player, with no plans to settle down, until he met the Church girl. He never really fancied the religious kind. They were always too frigid and self-righteous for his liking. But there was something about Mary…
The first time he laid eyes on her beauty was during registration for Nigerian Youth Service Corps (NYSC). He hadn’t said anything to her at the time, but he took note of the fact that they would be going to the same camp at Iseyin in Oyo State. He had smiled to himself that he would make his move then.
But to his surprise, Mary did not take notice of him or fall for his charms!!! That was the first! He could always get the ladies to swoon with just a flash of his pearly white teeth! And if that didn’t do the trick, his perfected British accent, from his brief stint in London, usually sealed the deal.
His friend, Chuka, saw him one day passing repeated glances at Mary. “O Boy, virgin Mary no be it oh!” he mocked.
Ifeanyi shrugged. “I don’t care,” he responded. “She’s not it, but the chase is sweeter with a fast prey!”
Chuka laughed! “You’re too bad!!!”
As Ifeanyi observed Mary with her friends, conducting an outdoor Bible Study, he wondered how far into her faith he would have to go to win the game!
There was a Redeemed Parish at the camp, and though Mary was Anglican, she went to fellowship there every Sunday morning for the three weeks that she was in camp. On their first Sunday, she noticed the tall, light-skinned man that had approached her after their registration. Damilola, her roommate, had informed her that he was a player! He had a bad reputation in London for breaking hearts. She was duly warned.
After the service, Ifeanyi approached Mary again, with a Bible in his hand.
“Hi, Mary. How did you find the service?” Ifeanyi asked.
“It was good,” Mary replied.
“I really enjoyed the praise. That’s always my favourite part,” Ifeanyi continued.
Mary just smiled. “OK, well have a good day,” she said as she hurried along to catch up with her friend, Dami, who had silently dismissed herself.
Dami laughed when Mary swung her hand through her arm, and got in step with her. “Why did you diss him now?”
“I didn’t diss him,” Mary said. “I just don’t have his time.”
As they walked along, Mary wondered if it would ever be possible for a man to break through the bars she had put up around her heart. Certainly, if there was such a man in existence, Ifeanyi didn’t fit the bill.
Ifeanyi couldn’t believe it. Why couldn’t he stop thinking about Mary? She wasn’t that pretty, he told himself. And she was darn right rude too! Yet, she had succeeded in spoiling his appetite for other women.
Sure, he still had the odd girl in his bed now and then, but he didn’t enjoy it like before. All he thought about was Mary, and he feared that it was more than a game now… Whenever he saw her, he lost his cool. He would sweat and stutter and well, he was not himself. This had to be fixed, and the only way was by sleeping with her and getting it over with!
So, as he thought about the situation more, he realised that he’d missed a step in his play book. He was paying her far too much attention. He would have to pull out the old trick of ignoring and insulting her. That should get her riled up.
Ifeanyi applied himself to his new strategy, and Chuka was happy to have his mate back. Their table was alive with activity and always flanked by so many beautiful girls. Ifeanyi even got himself a steady girlfriend, Ijeoma, who was oblivious to her role as a stand-in girl, to make Mary jealous.
Ifeanyi succeeded in dulling his feelings for Mary… but he never forgot about her. And it hurt him to realise that she seemed unmoved by his disdain for her. If she was jealous, she certainly hid it well.
Ifeanyi was the last thing on Mary’s mind. She was more concerned about her eventual placement, as she hoped to go as far away from Lagos as possible. She needed a new start, freedom from a haunting past, that suffocated her dreams for the future.
She had been such a silly girl to have made the mistake of working for Bolaji… Of thinking that she could bear the toll it would have on her soul – the real price of accepting his support. And now she was in too deep, and she knew he wasn’t about to let her go. Even now, she knew he was working behind the scenes, to ensure that she worked even under his nose. And the thought was horrifying.
“Are you all packed?” Dami asked, as she entered the small dorm they shared with ten other girls. “I can’t believe it’s been three weeks already!”
“Yeah…” Mary muttered, as she came back to reality. It had been three weeks of bliss, she thought. She hadn’t even been bothered about the highly inadequate toilet and shower facilities, the cramped, smelly and hot sleeping arrangements or even the less than satisfying meals. “It’s been fun sha,” she said honestly.
“We should hook up in Lagos!” Dami said.
“Before nko?” Mary smiled going over to Dami. “I’m going to miss you sha,” she said as they hugged.
“Yeah, me too!”
Dami helped Mary carry her things outside, where she was to catch a taxi to the coach station. Dami wouldn’t be leaving for another two days, and had offered Mary a ride. However, she had turned it down, in favour of leaving earlier.
As she got into the taxi, Mary noticed Ifeanyi looking at her with a strange expression on his face. His face was devoid of his usual grimace…a little sad actually. She offered him a smile and a wave goodbye, which seemed to shock him. He lifted his hand in a half-wave, before promptly turning around and walking away.
When he got back to Lagos, Ifeanyi swiftly dumped Ijeoma. She was hysterical, as she hadn’t expected it at all. She really thought she would be the one to win his heart, that she would be his “ride-or-die” chick. She hounded him to tell her what she had done wrong, but Ifeanyi didn’t know what to say. The truth was far too cliche. Because it really wasn’t her…it was him!
Ifeanyi thought often of the last time he saw Mary, and the sweet smile she had given him. It was so unexpected, that it had thrown him off-balance. He didn’t even realise that he had been staring at her. He knew now that he really liked her, for reasons unknown to him, and he had really messed that one up. He hoped for an opportunity for a fresh start, but he had no idea how to get in touch with her. She wasn’t in his NYSC Community Development Group (CDG), and he wasn’t even sure if she was serving in Lagos.
However, one day, he had some good fortune. It was a Saturday morning, and he and the guys were playing football at the City of David court, which they usually did once a month. He had invited Chuka to join his team, as they had become inseparable after meeting at NYSC camp.
During half-time, they rested at the stands, and refreshed themselves with cool water. Breathing heavily, Chuka asked “Do you still think of that SU from camp?”. ‘SU’ is a term used for those considered to be religious zealots, and stood for “Scripture Union”.
Unsure how to answer the question, as he had not yet confessed his feelings to Chuka, Ifeanyi shrugged. “What’s there to think about?”
“Ok. No problem,” said Chuka. “I just thought you might be interested to know where she’s serving.”
Ifeanyi patted his face with a towel, to hide his excitement, and looked straight-faced at Chuka when he had composed himself. “Oh really. Where?”
“I thought you didn’t care!” Chuka shot at him, running back to the field.
“Where jo??” Ifeanyi shot back, a little annoyed.
“She works for my sister, dude!” Chuka said with a smile. “I saw her the other day, at the office.”
Ifeanyi couldn’t hide his smile.
Chuka laughed. “I knew it! Game on???” he asked, ambiguously.
No games, Ifeanyi said to himself. This time, he would come correct!
“Oh, these are beautiful!!!” marveled Aisha, a co-worker at the Browne Law Firm where Mary served. “Who got you these?” she asked, admiring the bouquet of a dozen red roses on Mary’s desk.
Mary shoved the card in her face, uninterested. It read: “Let’s start over. Dine with me. Luv, Ifeanyi“.
“Who’s Ifeanyi?” Aisha asked, as though he was a mysterious prince.
“Just an arrogant guy from camp,” replied Mary.
“Doesn’t sound arrogant to me!” said Aisha. “Whatever he did, this says sorry! Can’t you give him another chance?”
“I don’t have time for guys abeg!” Mary retorted. “Don’t you have work to do?”
“Okay!” said Aisha, dropping the card on the table. “You know, you can do with a little lightening up. Life’s too short”. And with that, she went to her desk, and busied herself on her computer.
Mary couldn’t help but think about Aisha’s words. Maybe she was being too hard on him. But he is not Christian, she told herself. Well, he did make the effort to go to Church, she thought. Maybe he’s trainable. And it was only dinner. If there’s no spark, then there’s nothing lost. Maybe he’ll get off her case, when he realises that she’s not his kind afterall.
She picked up the card and looked at the flowers. He is kinda sweet, she smiled. He had scribbled his number at the bottom. She decided she would send him a text. “Got your flowers. Thanks”, was all she wrote.
“What about our date?” came his instant response.
When she didn’t respond after ten minutes, he dialed her number instead. Her voice, as she picked the call was so sweet, he smiled. “When can I take you to dinner?” he asked.
“I’m free Saturday,” she responded casually and added, “I don’t do late nights”.
“I’ll pick you up at 7pm. I’ll be your perfect gentleman” he replied with a grin.
“Good. I’ll text my address. Bye,” and with that, she cut the call.
Ifeanyi smiled to himself when he heard her click off. He breathed a sign of relief, as he put down his phone.
It instantly pinged with several BBM messages, from neglected babes, who were still pining for his attention. But he wasn’t interested in any of them now. He was planning the most romantic dinner of the century!
To be continued…
Copyright © Ufuomaee
Photo credit: http://www.stanfellerman.com
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