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This is the diary of a Nigerian Christian Girl- Season 1 Episode 4
I went to Dotun’s residence that afternoon. The housekeeper, a tall skinny woman led me down a hall that opened up into a spacious living room. Dotun’s mother was reclining on a luxurious creamy sofa dressed in a black loose gown. She had a black bonnet on her head and a bible opened on her laps.
The atmosphere was thick with an unexplainable darkness. I suddenly felt a sharp pain behind my head and with it came a fear that almost ripped my heart apart. What kind of house was this?
Dotun’s mother smiled sadly and cleared the photographs of Dotun scattered beside her. She placed them on the stool in front of her and ask me to sit beside her. My eyes caught a picture of Dotun in a navy blue suit standing in front of a church with ‘FISHERS OF MEN BIBLE CHURCH’ inscribed boldly on it.
There was another photograph of Dotun in a jersey with a ball under his arm. There was a younger version of him standing in front of a birthday cake, smiling with his front teeth gone. I closed my eyes and fought back tears.
I sat down and clasped my hands in front of me. ‘I’m Yemisi, Dotun’s class teacher.’
Dotun’s mother smiled sadly. She took a long glance at the bible and I almost thought she wanted to share something with me from the scriptures she’d been reading. She looked at me.
‘I know you. We’ve met once.’
I nodded. We had spoken at length at the open day event shortly after I was made the class teacher for SS2A.
‘I’m sorry about what happened to Dotun. The Lord comfort your heart ma’am.’
‘Thank you Miss Yemisi. I really appreciate this. The principal was here earlier today.’
I looked around the large sitting room and wondered why she was alone in the house. Where were her friends? What about her siblings and relatives? Why was there no one with her to comfort her?
She touched my shoulders lightly. ‘You are the first person I’ve permitted to see me since I stumbled on my dead son this morning. A lot of people were here but I told the housekeeper not to allow anyone in. I just wanted to be alone for some time.’
I was embarrassed that she had read my thoughts so quickly. ‘Thank you for letting me in.’
A young lady came out of one of the rooms in a torn jeans and black tank top. She wore a heavy makeup and her long hair was dyed pink. She held a small box and stopped in front of her mother.
‘I’m out of this damn place.’
Dotun mother’s face hardened. ‘Dunni, you can’t leave now. We need you here.’
She set the box down and folded her hands. ‘This place is shit. I can’t stay here.’
Dotun’s mother frowned. ‘Mind your language girl. Take that box back into the house!’
The lady laughed dryly. ‘My brother was a sweet and beautiful soul. You didn’t rest until you killed him. You want me to stay here so you can ruin my life too?
I felt like standing up and slapping her. What kind of rude child was this? Why would she talk to her mother like that.
Dotun’s mother flared up. ‘I can clearly see that you are out of your mind. Your brother killed himself when we gave him was every spiritual and material support any child could need. You have the guts to stand here and accuse me of killing my own son?’
Dunni wiped her tears. ‘I want the world to know how wicked you are. You ended his life long before now. You manipulated him! You killed him!’
Her mother slapped her across her face. ‘I just lost my son. Dunni, don’t let me lose my temper.’
I didn’t know what to do at that moment. Should I stand up quietly and leave? Should I try to talk sense into the girl’s head?
Dunni was not done. Tears poured down her face. ‘If nobody will stand up to you, I will. I regret having you as my mother. My sister is going through intense therapeutic sessions because of you and now my brother is gone. You are never satisfied with what we do. How did you even manage to control all of us? Now I am beginning to doubt if dad’s death was natural. He might have died from a ghastly motor accident but you drove him to it.’
Her mother wiped the tears from her eyes and looked at her daughter calmly. ‘All I ever did was give you the best life had to offer. Is this how you repay me?’
Dunni was shaking terribly. She glanced briefly at me. ‘This lady will think I’m just one rebellious child who has no respect for her mother. Mum, you are the best actress I’ve ever seen. You know how to fit into any role perfectly. My God! I detest those tears on your face. They are the weapons to more manipulative schemes. I’m out of here before you kill me too.’
She grabbed her box and stormed out of the house. The house keeper and two other ladies were standing at the far corner of the living room watching. One glare from Dotun’s mother and they scuttled away.
Dotun’s mother wiped her tears and smiled at me. I was already uncomfortable sitting there, seeking desperately for something to say but coming up empty. She came to my rescue.
‘Is there any of Dotun’s belongings in school I need to come for?
I told her Dotun’s locker would be emptied and his books sent to the house.
‘You can give out his textbooks, but I’d like all his notebooks returned.’
‘I’ll do that ma’am.’
The bell rang and I was more than relieved when the housekeeper rushed to open the door. The vice-principal and the heads of department of my school filed in. Soon, other people arrived and by the time I was ready to leave, the living room was crowded.
****** ************* *************************
4a.m. I woke with a start, panting heavily. My body was soaked with sweat.
My sister, Yewande was perching at the edge of the bed. She looked very worried. ‘You had a nightmare.’
I was shaking terribly even though the room was hot. I had seen Dotun screaming for help. Fire was spreading from his legs to his body. Instead of helping him, I had ignored him and right before my eyes, a strange creature appeared. He had only one enormous eye and sharp talons. His fangs was enough to send a man’s head rolling in seconds. He swept Dotun off his feet and flung him across the sky. I stood there, unable to move. When I would look to my left, Dotun’s mother was staring at me with a self-satisfying smile on her face. I turned my eyes away from her to the monster. He laughed and began to walk towards me. I screamed.
‘Are you sure you are okay?’
I moved away from the bed and sat on the edge of the bed. Yewande’s husband was standing at the entrance. I apologized and told them it would not happen again. When they left, I couldn’t sleep. The dream seemed so real. I wept till the day dawned.
When I woke up much later in the afternoon, I checked my call history. There were twenty calls I had missed. Wale. My vice-principal. Some of the teachers.
I didn’t feel like talking to anyone. I sent the vice-principal a text message. I was not feeling well. I needed a little time to pull myself together. She called immediately.
‘What kind of useless text message did you send to me?’ The vice-principal said.
I didn’t know how to respond. ‘I couldn’t get out of bed this morning.’
‘Is that an excuse? We were all affected by Dotun’s death so don’t give me that crap. Life is not fair. But we can’t stop living. We move on. Who were you expecting to take your classes for today? If you are acting like this, how do you expect your students to behave? What if all of them decided not to come to school today. But they are all in school, trying to get past this. My friend! You have no excuse. Your salary for today has been deducted. You didn’t show up for work. Period! If you think you can cry to the principal, just so you know, he left for Ghana this morning and until he returns I stand in his position. I want you back in school tomorrow morning or else you’ll get a query.’
She hung up. I was too weak to be angry. I turned off the phone and faced the wall. My sister came into my room an hour later with a plate of rice and stew. I tried a few spoons but that was all. I pushed the tray under the bed and faced the wall again.
Dotun returned in my dreams again. This time, I was in the class teaching when he walked to his seat and began to cut himself with a sharp razor blade. Blood oozed out of his arm. I stopped teaching and fixed my gaze on him, alarmed. I started to shout at the top of my lungs hoping the students would stop him but they all kept their gaze at me. It was if I was standing in front of a class of blind students who were also deaf. When I rushed to Dotun’s seat, he disappeared from sight. I woke up.
I couldn’t sleep again. At day break, I dressed up and went to school. None of the teachers had arrived and so I climbed the stairs that led to SS2A. I just had ten minutes before the teachers and the boarding house students begin to pour into the school building.
When I got to SS2A, I stood in front of the class and looked from one seat to the other, whispering their names.
‘Yemi. Damola. Fisayo. Mary. Adesuwa. Paul. Phebe. Jide. Hamzat. Folarin. Dunni…’ I kept going until I got to Dotun’s seat. I stopped. Dotun’s voice was ringing in my head.
Miss Yemisi’s boyfriend is lucky. If I were old enough to be her boyfriend, I’d kill anyone who came near here. She’d belong to me alone.
Tears trickled down my face. How did I not detect that something was wrong? I could have stopped this.
Miss Yemisi, if indeed you say there is a God, then he must be very cruel. If he was good like you claimed, he wouldn’t have created my mother.
My heart stopped when I remembered those words. Dotun had made that statement one afternoon as we stood outside the staffroom. Why didn’t I listen?
Miss Yemisi, how can hell be worse than what we are facing in this world. At least the fire, if there is truly a hell fire, will just burn my skin. Having humans torture your mind is the worst kind of hell.
I closed my eyes and my lips trembled. I remember Dotun’s eyes. I see now how they were pleading for help. Why was I seeing this now? I felt dizzy and gripped the sides of one of the lockers.
I turned towards the door. Mariam entered the class slowly and stopped in front of me.
‘Are you okay?’
I nodded. I wondered how long I’d stayed in the class. I followed her out. She held my hands.
‘I’m sorry about what happened. It’s not your fault Dotun died. Please don’t take the guilt trip. He made the choice to end his life.’
But I would have at least tried to stop him, I thought to myself. I would have made attempts to pray for him. I would have gone through the notes Phebe gave me. Dotun might still have been alive. When we got to the front of the vice-principal’s office, I stopped. ‘Mariam, I need to see the vice-principal.’
She nodded and gave me a tight hug. ‘You’ll be fine.’
I forced a smile and waited for her to move away before stepping into the vice-principal’s office. There was a large plastic cup filled with pap and beside it was an oil-smeared newspaper containing akara balls. I wondered how the vice-principal could eat comfortably with sheets of paper scattered all over her table.
‘What do you want?’ she looked at me frowning.
I pulled out an envelope from my handbag. I had written my resignation letter early in the morning. My mission at Cornerstone College was over. I’d sworn never to have anything to do with teenagers. I placed the envelope gently in front of her.
‘What’s this?’ She asked, looking at the envelope but not reaching out to take it.
I didn’t respond. She reached for her glasses and put it on before taking out the letter from the envelope. I waited for her to read through the content. She looked at me, shocked.
‘Do you remember the scripture that says, if you fall to pieces in a crisis, there wasn’t much to you in the first place?’
Proverbs twenty-four verse ten, message translation. I’d read the verse many times. I wasn’t denying that there was anything to me anyway. If a boy could die on my watch, how could God commit anything to me again?
‘Why can’t you just move on with your life for goodness sake? Think before you take action! Are you a baby? Yemisi, you will regret this.’ She paused. ‘Just when the management planned to pay salary next week with an increment of five thousand naira for all the employees, you are backing out. You see what you have lost?
All these lectures because of an extra five thousand naira on the forty thousand naira I earn? Will this woman just let me get out of here before I lose my mind?
‘You can leave if that’s what you want but for abruptly resigning without giving us time to get another teacher, you’ll be paid nothing. I hope this teaches you that you are not indispensable.’ The conversation was over. The Vice-principal tore open a sachet of milk with her teeth and poured it into the cup before stirring it.
I left for the staffroom to get the rest of my things. The students were hurrying towards the assembly ground and the teachers on duty were stationed at different positions controlling the movements of the students. . The rest of the teachers shouted in excitement when then I stepped into the staffroom. It was obvious they were glad to see me. I loved these teachers and I would miss them.
When they left for the assembly, I got to work. I brought out all the textbooks the school had provided for me and arranged them neatly on the table. The Economic assignment notes for the SS3 students were stacked beside my chair. I flipped through the notes and was relieved that I had marked all the assignments. I placed them beside the textbooks along with my lesson notes. I trashed the pieces of paper that I didn’t find useful.
I was afraid to open the lower drawer of my desk. I didn’t want to see the notes and drawings Phebe had given to me. But I had to clear everything out. One after the other I pulled them out the pieces of papers from the drawer. In one of the drawings, Dotun lay dead on the floor. Beside the dead body, another Dotun stood with his arms opened wide, laughing.
I shivered. This wasn’t a caricature at all. The eyes, nostrils, ears, everything was exactly in perfect shape. The drawing was not just beautiful, it evoked strong emotions. How did I not know that Dotun had such talent? What else have I missed about this boy?
I reached for one of the notes.
Mum said artists were the poorest people on earth. She took me into the torture chambers when she saw a drawing I had made of my father. I miss dad so much. He’d covered up for me many times. I love to draw. It’s the only thing that makes me happy. No, scratch that. I love two things actually. Tearing at my chest with a very sharp razor blade. Oh how I love the pain.
A chill ran down my back. I picked another note.
Death is the path that leads to freedom. I want to be free!
I stopped reading because my hands were shaking so terribly that the pieces of paper fell from my hand. I shred them, making no attempt to stop the tears streaming down my face. I had to get out of the school. I couldn’t stay one moment there or I’d break down.
I went through the back gate. It was the same gate I had taken when I returned from the interview at Pavillion Travel Agency. The security guard stationed at the back gate was curious.
‘Aunty Yemisi, shey you dey alright?’
I smiled. ‘I’m okay sir.’
I didn’t say goodbye to anyone. Not even to my students who meant so much to me. I loved the time I’d spent with them, but it didn’t change the fact that I’d failed them. I remember that after a three day retreat during my service year, I had written in my journal that I perceived God wanted me to raise teenagers for his glory. It was clear that I had been deceiving myself. I had no business with teens.
When the bike stopped in front of my house, I saw Abigail standing in front of my house with Yewande.
‘Here she comes!’ Abigail exclaimed.
I paid the bike fare and went into the house with them.
‘I resigned.’ I said to Abigail. She sighed as we entered the room together.
‘Yewande said you’ve not been sleeping well.’
I sat on the bed and held my head. Why was my head banging so loud? I lay on my back, tired and frustrated. Abigail went to work. She took out an empty travelling bag and began to fold some of my clothes into the bag. Yewande worked with her, folding my under wears and arranging my toiletries into the bag. I didn’t even bother to ask what they were doing. I fell back to the bed and stared blankly at them.
‘I don’t want her to be a burden on you.’ My sister said.
‘Yemisi can never be a burden. My mother loves her very much. She’ll be fine.’
When Abigail finished, she zipped the bag and reached for my hand. I took it, too weak to say anything. We boarded a taxi that took us to her house. I was glad Abigail didn’t make attempts to talk to me all through the ride. I needed the silence terribly.
Abigail made my favourite meal. Rice and fried plantation. But I couldn’t get it down my throat. It tasted like paracetamol on my tongue. Abigail was worried.
‘Yewande said you’ve hardly eaten anything since you found out about Dotun’s death. Please eat something.’
‘I’m not hungry.’
She held up a spoonful of rice. ‘Just one spoon.’
I shook my head and reached for the bottle of cold Fanta. In one gulp, the 50cl was gone. Abigail left the room and returned with two sausage rolls. I finished them in no time. Excited, Abigail stood up.
‘Should I get you bread and tea?’
I touched my stomach. ‘I don’t want anything. I’m filled up.’
‘The bread is very nice. It’s coconut bread. I can spread jam over it.’
I shook my head. ‘No. Thank you.’
She climbed the bed and opened her laptop. ‘Let’s watch a movie.’
Halfway into the movie, I lost the flow and my thoughts returned to Dotun and with it came the tears again. I tried not to sniff but I couldn’t hold it. Abigail looked at me and I knew she didn’t know what to say to make me feel better. The truth was, I didn’t want her to say anything. I loved the silence. She squeezed my hand gently. I smiled and tried to focus on the movie. But I couldn’t.
At the end of the movie, Abigail went to get me another drink. When she returned, her face was beaming with smiles.
‘Guess who is here to see you.’
My eyes went to the door, Mama Deolu and Abigail’s mother stood at the entrance. I flew out of the bed and ran to hug my spiritual mentor. My hands were still wrapped around her neck as the tears poured down my face. Tears were in Mama D’s eyes too.
‘I heard.’ Mama D said. ‘I know how you loved that boy. You talked about him a lot. Listen dear, stop allowing the devil weigh you down with condemnation. You did your best for that boy. Stop carrying the guilt around.’
‘You don’t understand. It’s my fault. The signs were there but I ignored them.’
Mama Deolu held my shoulders. ‘God is not mad at you. He loves you and his plans for you has not changed. Cast your cares on the Lord and see where he takes you from there.’
My mentor didn’t understand. I had failed God. How could he still use me to raise a son of his after my negligence. I had preached the love of the Father but right now, God seemed different to me. I had disobeyed him. I had let a boy slip into everlasting condemnation. He couldn’t possibly trust me with someone else.
I glanced at Abigail’s mother ‘Thank you for allowing me stay here.’
She smiled and turned to her daughter. ‘Has she eaten?’
‘I served rice and plantain but she refused to eat it. She devoured the two sausage rolls I gave her though. Yewande said she has not been able to eat or sleep well in the last two days.’
‘There is a burger in my handbag. Go get it.’
Abigail left and I returned to the bed. The two women followed me in.
‘How’s Papa D.’ I asked my mentor.
My mentor smiled. ‘He has returned from the pastoral college. He misses you a lot. Don’t be far away from us Yemisi.’
I nodded. ‘Yes ma’am’
The two women placed their hands on my head and began to pray softly. Suddenly, I felt the heaviness slowly lift from my chest. My head also felt lighter. I lay on my back enjoying the soothing words that flowed from their lips.
I slept off. I didn’t have any nightmare this time. When I woke up, Abigail was beside me, watching a documentary. I tapped her lightly. She removed her earpiece and looked at me
‘What’s the time?’ I asked.
‘It’s almost midnight.’
I faced the wall and returned to sleep.
***** ************ *************************
I resumed work at Pavillion Travel Agency a month after I resigned from my job as a teacher. I drove myself to work and by the end of the first month, I was paid a hundred and fifty thousand naira as my basic salary. I also got another hundred thousand naira as commission.
Jide, Wale’s friend and the head of HR gave me a room in his family house which was just few streets away from my office. It was a temporary provision until I secure a rented apartment.
Something happened the day after I told Wale about the pay I’d received. He asked that we hang out at a particular restaurant. I wanted it to be a special date. Of course I had money now and I could afford something classy. I went for a nice shoe and a beautiful dinner gown.
I got to the restaurant and Wale did something I’d been dying for him to do. He held out a beautiful engagement ring and proposed to me. I said Yes.
I should have been excited right? I wasn’t and I couldn’t explain why I felt that way. Probably it was just my mind overthinking things. I was wondering why Wale proposed after I collected my salary. Why not before?
I tried to shake off the odd feeling and concentrate on the delicious meal he had ordered. I stared at the ring on my finger. This was something I’d been looking forward to yet everything seemed so bland.
I convinced myself that it had nothing to do with the money in my bank account. Wale was ready to settle down but somewhere in my heart I could sense something terrible coming.
Episode 5 comes up next.