It was then wisdom suggested I drop the matter. I laughed into the mouthpiece of my phone and jokingly told her I wouldn’t even see her again till we meet in heaven. She laughed sincerely and told me not to worry. ‘When I finish service, we will see’, she said. We talked about her house in Abuja and the major monuments she had seen. From that, we talked about other things until she told me she had to make some food for dinner. After the call, I tried to think about the conversation and see if there was anything she might not want me to know yet. But I knew then that she might just be actually too shy to show me her lodge. She had complained that her local government was too rural and her house was not plastered on the exterior. I smiled as it dawned on me she only didn’t want me to see her in such manner. Little did she know I didn’t care about such things. ‘But why would she be shy to show me the poor state of her house?’
I asked myself. ‘Maybe this girl also likes me o’ the thought made me smile exceedingly. The next Sunday was the annual singles’ conference in my church and I attended for the first time. During the program, we were told to sit based on our levels. Those single and searching were directed to a different hall while those who were already in a relationship were also directed elsewhere. I pondered on where to head to for close to a minute before I made my choice and stood up. I walked past the group of people who had already chosen wedding dates. I also passed by the segment meant for the widows and widowers. Finally, I found my seat among the group I chose. I smiled to myself and silently thanked God as I waited for the minister to arrive. I sat in the hall, with the group of singles who were already in a relationship. ‘I am no longer searching’ I told myself. I bowed my head in prayers and prayed for Victoria as I prepared for the message. IV. Exactly two months and ten days after I met Victoria, I was at my workplace when she called my phone. She had never called me at such hour of the day and I was surprised when I saw her contact name displayed on my phone, ‘VictoriaMoi’. I picked and I was instantly afraid at her frantic tone of voice. She sounded panicky and I tried to calm her nerves.
After she reduced her pace of talking, I was finally able to comprehend what she was saying. ‘Hope everything is alright with you.’ I asked, deliberately keeping my voice low and slow to put her at peace. She blew out air, breathed in, and then spoke in a relaxed voice. ‘Thanks Victor, I am Okay.’ ‘Okay. That’s good; so tell me, what happened?’ ‘It is my younger sister…’ ‘What happened to her?’ my voice sounded edgy in my own ears. ‘Nothing really. She just called me now and told me her exams are in three hours’ time…’ ‘Okay, success to her.’ I interrupted. ‘Thanks, but the problem is, she hasn’t paid one of the fees required to sit for the exam.’ I closed the file on my desk and listened more raptly. ‘You mean she has not paid school fees?’ I asked. ‘No, she has paid that one. This is a different fee.’ ‘How much is it?’ ‘Fifteen thousand naira.’
Victoria hesitated a bit before she continued. ‘She has tried dad’s number but the call didn’t go through. And me, I have just five thousand with me. They will pay us next week.’ ‘I don’t know what to do next.’ She added. I was aware she knew what to do next but couldn’t bring herself to do it, so I helped her. ‘Okay, send me her account number. I will transfer the money to her now.’ It felt good saying those words and I was glad to help out. ‘I… I don’t… I don’t know what to say.’ Victoria stuttered, ‘I will pay you back next week. God bless you.’ ‘Please, don’t pay me back. I am not lending you; I am giving your sister.’ ‘Thank you so much, Victor’, she said profusely. ‘God will bless you, God will…’ ‘Amen’ I quickly said to cut off her prayers and save myself more embarrassment. ‘She is my sister too’. ‘Yeah. You are such a good friend. God will reward you.’ She prayed again and I sensed her voice shaking. I was suddenly in a hurry to finish the conversation and I told her to send the account number after the call.
‘Thank you.’ She said and I kept quiet, hoping she would take the hint and cut the call herself. She said another ‘Thanks’ before finally ending the call. My phone alerted me of her text about a minute later and I sent twenty thousand to her younger sister’s bank account. I reopened the file before me and resumed work afterwards. I was still scribbling pen on paper when her call came through again. As soon as I picked the call, I kept saying ‘Don’t mention’ repeatedly before she even had time to speak. And then, she laughed. I laughed too and she cut the call. Finally able to face my business, I closed file after file and finished each task after the other. Later in the afternoon, I was gathering my things and readying myself for the journey back home when my phone rang again. 37 I instantly thought it was Victoria yet again, and I was already smiling before I picked up my phone. But when I saw it was a new number that was calling, my face grew serious again and I picked the call. ‘Hello sir.’ Came a tiny and equally sweet voice. ‘Hello’ I replied. ‘This is Virtue, sister Victoria’s younger sister.’ ‘Oh!’ I said, ‘How are you doing?’ ‘I am fine sir. I just want to thank you very much for what you did for me this afternoon sir.’ ‘Please, please, it is alright. Don’t mention it.’ I said. But she wouldn’t have any of it. ‘You really saved me sir. I was able to write my exams in peace. And when they turned people away from the exam hall, I was very grateful to you sir.’ ‘Please, Virtue, be grateful to God. It is alright’ I said again. ‘You are my sister too.’ She thanked me again and explained she had to collect my phone number from Victoria just to thank me personally. I was pleased with myself for the help I was able to render, and I told her so. ‘Is this your personal number?’ I asked her as the talk came to its end. ‘Yes sir. You can save it.’ I noticed the thinness and purity of her voice again and I smiled. ‘You have such a wonderful voice.’ I complimented. ‘Thank you sir.’ She said and I could hear the smile in her voice. I asked how her exams went and she said it was great and she did her best. I asked her about school and she answered me happily. Immediately the call ended, I saved her number on my phone. ‘Lil Sister’ I wrote prophetically. V. ‘Are you sure this is the plan God has for you, Victor?’ Emmanuel asked me for the second time that Saturday morning.
I had hardly spent about thirty minutes in the couple’s sitting room before the matter of my friendship with Victoria came up. When I talked about the wonderful feeling I always had when I speak with her, and the joy I often get whenever I imagined our life together, while Emmanuel looked at me with questions in his eyes, his wife had a big smile on her face. And when I finally told them I would like to propose to her, Emmanuel frowned slightly just before his wife shouted ‘Hallelujah’. I decided to focus on the happiness of Mrs. Emmanuel and I shifted my body bit by bit until I was facing her; expertly cutting off Emmanuel from the conversation. Some moments later, while his wife was in the kitchen, Emmanuel took the seat she just vacated and asked me; ‘Victor, are you sure this is the plan God has for you?’ I felt it was a strange question to ask but a part of me knew it was an important one. I wanted to quickly say ‘Yes’ but I felt some doubt within.
I had to ask myself if I was indeed sure it was all God’s plan. ‘What do you mean by God’s plan?’ I finally answered Emmanuel with a question. ‘Well, you know; have you been led to her by God himself? Do you have any form of direction?’ ‘What about the fact that we happened to see her on that road that day? Isn’t that God’s coincidence?’ I asked. He readjusted in his seat and heaved, ‘But do you think that is enough for one to make a lifetime decision?’ Emmanuel asked in return. I thought about his questions and his unspoken words for a while as I looked for a good answer to give. Emmanuel waited for some moments and spoke again, ‘Don’t you think you are rushing things with her too fast?’ When I did not say anything, he continued; ‘Someone you have only seen once in your life. And you are already thinking about marriage. Victor, you are sharp now. You too should understand why I’m asking these questions.’ The more he spoke, the more I began to see clearer. ‘Am I not being impatient?’
I asked within. ‘Maybe I should pray more on it?’ I asked Emmanuel. But before he could answer, his wife spoke first. It seemed she had left the kitchen and had been listening to us all the while. ‘Bro Victor, look, I understand what your fears are.’ she said, ‘But you cannot walk with God without faith. You have to believe the few signs you have been shown and act on them. It is only then that God will show you his will more clearly…’ As I sat there and listened to Mrs. Emmanuel’s voice, I realized there was a lot of wisdom on the woman’s tongue. So I listened more. ‘What do you mean?’ I asked her, encouraging her to say more. She walked nearer and sat in the seat Emmanuel had left earlier and she continued speaking. Again, I turned my body away from Emmanuel and faced his wife more. ‘Look at Moses for example,’ she began again, ‘He was first shown the burning bush- just a small sign, and when God saw he got that little signal and acted on it by removing his shoes, God spoke to him clearly.’ ‘Uhmmmmmmm…’ I heaved in comprehension and nodded my head in agreement to her revelation. ‘So, I think you should not disregard the little signs you have seen. The love in your heart, the circumstantial meeting of you too and the friendship you too have developed within this short time….’
‘That’s true, very true.’ I interjected. ‘Yeah, I will advise you just take a step of faith.’ she concluded. When she was done, the room was silent for about a minute and I was lost in my own thought. ‘Take a step of faith.’ that sentence echoed in my mind again and again. I pondered on the statement and a decision was quickly made in my mind. ‘Next Monday is a public holiday, right?’ I asked aloud. When Emmanuel and his wife nodded, I smiled. ‘I will travel down to Abuja and see her on I had hardly spent about thirty minutes in the couple’s sitting room before the matter of my friendship with Victoria came up. When I talked about the wonderful feeling I always had when I speak with her, and the joy I often get whenever I imagined our life together, while Emmanuel looked at me with questions in his eyes, his wife had a big smile on her face. And when I finally told them I would like to propose to her, Emmanuel frowned slightly just before his wife shouted ‘Hallelujah’.
I decided to focus on the happiness of Mrs. Emmanuel and I shifted my body bit by bit until I was facing her; expertly cutting off Emmanuel from the conversation. Some moments later, while his wife was in the kitchen, Emmanuel took the seat she just vacated and asked me; Sunday, tomorrow. Then return home on Monday.’ It was an impulsive decision but it felt right nonetheless. My decision seemed to sit well with both of them and Mrs. Emmanuel smiled in complete agreement. ‘That’s it. A step of faith.’ she said. When she shifted her gaze to her husband, I also turned my look to him. We waited for his reaction and he smiled and shook his head. ‘Okay o, but what do you plan to do when you see her?’ He asked. ‘A step of faith,’ I said and smiled at Mrs. Emmanuel; ‘I am going to propose to her.’ I said more loudly. The words dropped into the room and no one spoke just yet. My words came as a surprise to me too. ‘I thought she serves in Ibadan.’ Mrs. Emmanuel broke the silence. ‘She has finished and returned home to Abuja’. I explained. ‘I think it is a good idea.’ Emmanuel said. ‘I just want you to know where you stand. But please, still pray about it.’ I was a bit surprised at his words but I didn’t show it. ‘Okay sir, I will!’ I said jovially. ‘How many hours does it take to travel from here to Abuja?’
Mrs. Emmanuel asked. ‘About five to six.’ Emmanuel and I spoke at once. ‘I will leave after church service tomorrow and should arrive there in the night. Then I will see her on Monday morning and return in the afternoon. I should be able to get here before 7pm.’ The visit was already taking a good shape in my head. ‘That’s okay, safe journey o. Mr Love Traveller’, said Mrs. Emmanuel and we all laughed. VI. ‘How do you intend to spend the public holiday?’ I asked Victoria when we spoke on phone that evening. It was not an unusual question and I didn’t sound too particular when I asked. ‘Why?’ she asked but before I could answer, she went on. ‘I will most likely stay home with my parents and siblings and just enjoy the day.’
‘Good. Good…’ I said. ‘Family time is a blessed time.’ ‘Yeah, I agree’ she said, ‘What about you? Do you want to visit your people too?’ I smiled and told her I would be visiting a friend instead. She seemed pleased with the answer and didn’t ask further questions. I was also pleased that she didn’t and we went on to talk about other trivial things. By the next morning, I had made up my mind completely about the journey and I had put everything in line for my journey and visit to be successful. I met briefly with Emmanuel after the Sunday church service and told him I would be leaving according to plan that afternoon. He looked pleased enough with my journey and reminded me not to go empty-handed.