Online Romance

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    written & sent by Ohibenemma

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    Episode 1

    All rights reserved.
    All resemblances unintended.
    All criticisms welcome.

    I woke up that morning, and as was my usual ritual since the commencement of the ASUU strike, logged into facebook. I saw many notifications and carefully scanned through them. Some were comments made by some of my online friends on a photo I had uploaded about two years back. I was surprised that a photo already two years old online would garner up to five comments in a single night when it had only three for the two years it had been online. I smiled, acknowledged and responded to some of them before going to check the other notifications. Most were group and page updates. As I checked through them, I made a mental note to leave some of the groups. I hate receiving useless updates and most of the updates I saw that morning were just that. I refreshed the page to clear off the notifications I had attended to and discovered that the only ones remaining were two friend requests. The surname of the first, Paul, was familiar; it was a family in which I had two friends. Though, I didn’t know the particular person behind the name, I deduced it must belong to a sibling of my friends, Yemisi and Tayo Igbokwe. The second request was from an unfamiliar name, Tricia Ogbemudia. Her profile photo was a portrait sketch.
    I decided to check that first and clicked on the name. I knew where I was going to – her photos. I liked the name and hoped to like the photos too. As the page loaded, I searched my brains, trying to recollect if I had had any previous encounter with a person bearing that name. I couldn’t remember any and my curiosity was heightened. The new page opened, showing her profile photo and some details about her: she was a 300 level student of History in the famous University of Ibadan and had previously attended a polytechnic which I hadn’t heard of before. She was from my state and was a year younger than I was. Not too bad, I thought, but needed further details. Her profile picture was a sketched female portrait. Could that be her? I thought. The sketch was beautiful, but it could be of anybody. I saw that her photo count exceeded a hundred and I clicked on the “photos” icon to see them. The first photo that loaded was one of her in a sky blue, long-sleeved shirt with a black tie to match. Her hair was tied back in a ponytail and her smiling, parted lips showed a very perfect set of dentition.
    ‘Waoh!’ I sighed in excitement. ‘She is so beautiful!’
    I clicked back so I could mentally compare both photos. They were of the same person. Though the hairstyles were different, every other feature matched. I was about to reload the photos folder when I heard a knock on my door.
    ‘Yes, who’s that?’ I shouted, making sure my voice reflected my displeasure.
    ‘Daddy says you should come out for Morning Devotion,’ sounded the voice of my little sister, five years old Eseosa. I had wasted the effort on making my voice hard; Eseosa was never considerate of such.
    ‘I’m coming,’ I replied, jumping off the bed and putting on a singlet.
    I was barely done with that when I heard the baritone voice of my dad.
    ‘What are you doing inside that room, my friend?’ the volume of my dad’s voice defied the barrier posed by the locked door. I wonder how he did it, his voice could penetrate any part of the house and it was obviously without much effort on his part.
    ‘I’m coming, sir,’ I replied and grabbed my bible from the chair beside my bed. I flung my phone on the bed and rushed to the door. I remembered with a smile how I had placed it on the chair the previous night after reading some verses from it. I had wanted to meditate on those verses – to get the inner meaning, like my pastor would say – when I fell asleep. I unlocked the door and stepped out. My sister, Ivie, was clearing her throat to lead in worship when I took a seat beside her. She eyed me and smiled knowingly before raising a song. I wondered why she was smiling, was she a witch? I ignored her and closed my eyes, but was forced to open it when we joined the singing in a chorus. My dad was boldly going off-key and his voice was loudest, the same way it reverberated around the house, penetrating even shut doors when he was angry. Ivie noticed it too. This was obvious from the smile she couldn’t suppress when our eyes met. This was my dad who never tired to repeat tales of his experience as a chorister while in secondary school. He would sit us down and tell us of how we were killing music with our unnecessary adlibbing when singing.
    ‘You guys rarely sing in parts nowadays, probably once in a whole year,’ he had said the last time he walked in on us while I and Ivie were arguing about the lyrics of the song we had rehearsed that evening. It wasn’t the first time we would be hearing him say so and we knew we hadn’t heard the last of it too.
    ‘Dad, we do, but it’s usually subtly applied as most of our songs aren’t classicals…’ Ivie tried to explain before she was interrupted by Dad once again.
    ‘Why aren’t they classicals? Because you guys are lazy and don’t want to learn. How I long for the old days when I was a member of the St Gregory’s choir, all our songs then were done in parts, not the repetitive tremolos you sing nowadays…’
    I knew he would go on to lambast our choir mistress’ adlibbing and I wasn’t disappointed. It was useless arguing with him whenever he was in such mood. I eyed Ivie when I noticed she was about to launch into another attempt at justifying our “modern” music styles. It would only lengthen the argument and yield no positive fruits. My dad was too set in his old ways to appreciate contemporary music styles, except they were native songs.
    My dad was clearly in the spirit, his eyes tightly shut as he murdered the song. My mom, while being a good singer herself, didn’t seem bothered by dad’s murderous act, she swayed her head from side to side singing with relish. I quickly shut my eyes when I noticed Eseosa’s eyes on me. She could report me later of watching others while they were worshipping, an act that could prompt my dad to launch a tirade – something I wasn’t prepared for. Eseosa possessed the exclusive right to open her eyes during worship and prayers, but even she had begun imitating us. Socialization, my lecturer called it; influence, I called it.
    To be continued.


    EPISODE 2&3 (SCROLL Dawn]

    Episode 4

    Episode 5

    Episode 6

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    Episode 2

    I had just shut my eyes when my phone rang inside the room. It would be a crime for anyone in my house to receive calls once devotion was on, except my dad, of course. He justified his right to take calls at any time to his profession.
    ‘I’m a medical doctor,’ he would say, looking around as if to see if anyone will counter his assertion, ‘and sometimes emergencies come up.’
    My mum would laugh sarcastically, but would say nothing. I and Ivie would eye ourselves, but say nothing too.
    I listened until it stopped ringing; it’s tone seemingly louder than the singing around me. I squinted to peep at those around me. Others, including even Eseosa, were fully immersed in the task at hand. What was wrong with me? Why was I finding it so difficult to concentrate? The harder I tried to concentrate, the more distractions arose in my mind. I wondered who the caller was, I wondered if Ivie wasn’t faking her pained facial expression as she led in worship, I wondered what Eseosa could actually be thinking. So many thoughts crisscrossed my mind. Then, I remembered Tricia Ogbemudia, the beautiful lady that had sent me a friend request. Her surname was popular, the immediate past Senator representing us bore same name. Could she be his daughter or was it another Ogbemudia? I remembered having a jotter with the former senator’s portrait; I would have loved to check if there was any resemblance. I would have loved to do it that moment, but for the morning devotion. Why was I finding it so difficult to concentrate on the task at hand?
    []My thoughts were interrupted when the worship session ended and the praises commenced. The clapping and energetic singing rendered my thoughts disjointed. Thank God, I thought, He was proving Himself more powerful after all.
    I joined in the clapping and tried to raise my voice even higher than the song leader’s. Eseosa, sensing a contest, raised her voice even higher. In spite of all our best efforts, my dad’s voice still boomed through. How he did it, I didn’t know. It was so effortless. I could still notice some pitch variations, but it was no longer as pronounced as it had been during the worship session. The only time he seemed in his musical elements was when the song in question was a native one. He had never sung a classical song in the presence of any of us, his children. How we wished he would, at least for once. All he did was to occasionally sing some tonic sol-fa, the accuracy of which I couldn’t readily confirm. I was still learning the piano and didn’t know the sol-fas offhand. Who knew if those weren’t incorrect too?
    After some minutes of singing praises, my mum did the Bible Exposition; it was on a topic that had to do with Samson’s love for strange women. I half-listened as my thoughts returned to Tricia Ogbemudia. I hoped my mum will be through soon so I could go and accept the request and possibly start chatting with her immediately. I was surprised when all eyes turned in my direction suddenly. What was wrong?
    ‘Are you deaf, my friend?’ Dad asked, looking at me angrily. We only became his friends when we had done something he found offending.
    ‘Uhmm?’ I muttered in surprise.
    ‘I asked you a question,’ mum said gently, ‘does it mean you haven’t been listening?’
    I nodded and shook my head, smiling stupidly. My dad’s stare made the smile disappear instantly. In its place was what I was sure would be a look of uncertainty.
    ‘Mum asked what you would have done had you been in Samson’s shoes after Delilah’s first betrayal?’
    Oh, so it was just that? The smile returned as I prodded my memory for the complete story of Samson. I was never scared of answering questions once the answers were available. I had good diction – many friends had told me so in the past. I cleared my throat.

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    Episode 3
    ‘Had I been in Samson’s shoes, I would have acted differently,’ I began. ‘Samson’s actions, I think, lacked common sense. He should have known that he was headed down the way of destruction with Delilah when she betrayed him the first time. It was clear that she meant business when she called in the philistines after binding him. That he would continue in the game of death was unthinkable for a wise man, I really would have acted differently…’
    ‘My friend, will you tell us what you would have done and stop beating about the bush?’ My dad demanded, his voice deeper and louder this time.
    I was taken aback, I had thought my audience would be impressed by my speech, but they obviously weren’t.
    ‘I would have cut all contacts with her, since she obviously didn’t mean well for me.’
    ‘That’s good,’ my dad boomed. I saw a smile on his face for the first time that morning. Maybe he had given one to my mum inside the bedroom, I didn’t know. ‘Samson should have escaped very fast after Delilah’s first betrayal, but he didn’t. That is why the bible asks us if we shall continue in sin that grace may abound. The answer is a straight God forbid.’ My dad had automatically taken over from my mum. ‘How often do we go after strange women today? How often do we go after strange men today? These are personal questions we need to ask and provide the answers ourselves. May God help us to avoid the allures of strange women in Jesus’ name…’
    ‘Amen!’ We all responded. My mum closed the daily devotional guide and we closed our bibles.
    ‘Like Ohis just said, when we have such encounters with strange women, our reaction should be to run…’ I couldn’t remember making any such statement. ‘We are not to wait and expect God to help us. Heaven helps those who help themselves…’ He went on and on for the next ten minutes, with my mum glancing at the wall clock on several occasions. She had to be at work by eight, but my dad’s job was the only one that allowed emergencies. It was eighteen minutes past seven already. We all heaved a sigh of relief when my dad finally called for prayers. My mum immediately took the cue, she probably didn’t trust anyone else to maximise the little time she had remaining.

    ‘Ivie, plug the electric kettle and go bathe your sister,’ she instructed immediately after we had said The Grace. Dad had already gone into their bedroom. ‘Ohis, go to your dad and get some money for bread. Two loaves should be sufficient for us…’ She hesitated like she was trying to remember something then shook her head. ‘That should be enough.’
    Ivie left for the kitchen while I went to my parents’ bedroom. Eseosa clung to my mum and was pointing at her head, at something I couldn’t readily pick out. It was typical Eseosa, she wanted attention always.
    My dad gave me a five hundred naira note for the loaves; I had demanded six hundred naira. I had made the mistake of not demanding for more, my dad had the habit of always reducing one’s financial demands. We were used to it, we usually demanded far above our actual needs, so we would still be in a vantage position when he slashes our requests.
    I went for my phone before going to get the bread. Tricia Ogbemudia’s photos had loaded, all portraits, few sketches and all beautiful. I accepted her request before leaving the house. I was lucky to find the shop two houses away from ours already open, they rarely opened before eight. I paid for the loaves of bread, pocketed a one hundred naira change and made for home with the loaves. I dumped them on the dining table when I arrived home and went into my room. I could hear some sounds from the bathroom and knew it was Eseosa being bathed.
    I fell on my bed immediately I got into the room and started viewing Tricias photos. She was beautiful in them all – smooth and light facial skin, perfectly placed cheekbones, pointed nose, perfectly curved jaws and exquisite hairstyles – I loved them all. I had forgotten about Paul Igbokwe, I had forgotten about the call missed during the morning devotion. I suddenly discovered that I had a pending message, which I reluctantly clicked to open. I wasn’t done admiring the photos. It was from Tricia Ogbemudia, I elatedly discovered.
    ‘Hello,’ it read.
    ‘Hi,’ I quickly replied, ‘good morning.’
    ‘Same here, hope your night was as good as mine?’
    ‘Yea, it was.’ I didn’t need to ask about hers, she had already told me how it was. The only question that kept popping in my brain was about her identity. Wouldn’t she be offended if I asked her that?
    ‘I’m sure you don’t know me,’ Tricia typed next. It was as if she could read my thoughts. I quickly responded in the affirmative. ‘I’m Senator John Ogbemudia’s daughter.’
    ‘You must be joking!’ I responded, excited. So she was his daughter after all?
    ‘I’m serious,’ she replied. ‘I was in your church two weeks back and saw you then.’
    I tried to remember that particular occasion. That was the day I had taken the solo of our choir ministration. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but I had performed well. I could remember those that arose that day, when newcomers were asked to do so. A pot-bellied man clad in the same green lacy material as his wife who also arose, and their two beautiful kids, a boy and a girl. Why did Tricia not join them when they were being ushered to special seats reserved for newcomers in the front row? I was going to ask her.

    ‘Was that your first time there?’
    ‘But you weren’t among the newcomers welcomed?’
    ‘I arrived there when the service had just ended; I came to pick a friend in your choir.’
    ‘Oh, you drive?’ I typed, sending it before realising I shouldn’t have done so. I couldn’t drive and my question could prompt a similar one from her. And who that fellow chorister of mine she was talking about?
    ‘Not really,’ she replied, ‘I have a personal driver.’
    She had a driver! I was dazed. When I couldn’t even drive, a girl probably my age had a car and a personal driver! What was my dad still doing in the medical profession when there was money for the taking in politics?
    ‘That’s good,’ I typed. ‘What’s the name of your friend?’
    ‘That’s a secret for now,’ she replied, giving me multiple heartaches. Now every female in the choir would be a suspect.
    ‘If you insist.’
    We chatted on and on until she asked for my number which I didn’t hesitate in sending. What was there to hide? She could have easily gotten it from her friend. And she was a very beautiful girl.
    A few seconds later, my phone rang. It was Tricia. We had spoken for almost an hour when Ivie came to my room. She was wondering why I was yet to take my breakfast which was very unusual. It was already past nine and my parents had been gone for over an hour. I rarely left my breakfasts beyond 8.30 A.M.
    ‘I will be back very soon,’ I told Tricia and arose lazily. I ignored Ivie’s knowing smile as I made for the dining table.
    For the first time, I felt the pangs of hunger. My tummy suddenly started giving out rumbles, so loud that Ivie, who was following me, could hear the sounds. She fetched a teacup from the fridge and poured in some hot water from the water flask. I watched her in surprise; she never made my teas in the past.
    ‘Who was that on the phone with you?’ She asked, spooning some Milo into the cup of hot water.
    ‘Now I know why you’ve been so nice, amebo!’ I replied.
    ‘Information is power, bro. You should know that as a mass communicator.’
    I knew what she was talking about. Mr Igbe, my H.O.D, had repeatedly used that cliché. Yet, I didn’t think it applied to her sudden pryingness.
    She was patient, as was typical of her. Ivie added some sugar to the cup and laid it on the table. Then she removed some bread slices from the nylon holding them. These she placed in a saucer, beside the cup, before drawing out a chair for me. I smiled and sat to eat.
    She had drawn out a chair and sat down too, by the time I opened my eyes from the customary prayers that preceded every meal in our house. I found her smile funny and smiled too; I hoped to have a wife like her in the future – a patient and understanding woman like her.
    ‘Well?’ I asked, taking a bite at a slice of bread.
    ‘Who was the lady on the phone with you? I know it wasn’t Olanike.’
    It was then I remembered the existence of an Olanike. I hadn’t given her a thought since I woke up that morning. She was a girl in Ivie’s department who I had been wooing for almost three months and was only just beginning to show signs of friendliness. Ivie knew all about my intentions for her and had been of much help in maintaining contact between us. Olanike could get lost, for all I cared; Tricia was prettier, richer and sounded homelier.
    ‘Who told you it was a lady and even if it was, what makes you think it wasn’t Ola?’
    ‘Cos no conversation with Ola has ever spanned so long and they are never so cheerful and mirthful.’
    ‘Everything starts in a day, and…’
    ‘Stop giving off those lies, I know and I’m sure it wasn’t Ola on the phone with you since morning.’
    ‘What makes you so sure?’ I knew I would eventually tell her about Tricia, but was happy pulling her legs meanwhile.
    ‘Cos I spoke with Ola on phone while you were making that call.’
    ‘Huh?’ I muttered, setting down the teacup in my hand. I hadn’t expected that. The taste of the bread in my mouth instantly went sour. ‘What did you talk about?’
    ‘Now the questions have changed source, I thought you were with Ola a moment ago?’
    ‘I never said so, what did you guys talk about?’
    ‘She was worried that your line was still busy after five attempts by her to reach you.’
    Ola tried calling me five times? The same Olanike who had abruptly terminated my call the previous day when I told her that she was only shifting the judgement day by refusing to accede to my wooing attempts? I had sent her a text message when she wouldn’t answer my call afterwards, but she never replied. She called me?

    ‘So, what did you tell her?’ My voice had suddenly gone raspy.
    ‘I told her it was possible that the network was responsible,’ she paused and looked at my face, ‘that sometimes I was a victim of such erratic network performance.’
    I heaved a sigh of relief and resumed sipping of my tea. What was it about Olanike that made me feel that way?
    ‘You did well,’ I told her and smiled in relief. She had lied, she knew it, but what were sisters for? I quickly gobbled the remaining bread slices and arose. She remained on her chair, watching me.
    ‘You still haven’t told me who called you for over an hour?’ She gently asked.
    I sat back. ‘That was Senator Ogbemudia’s daughter; she sent me a request on facebook this morning.’
    ‘Senator Ogbemudia!’ She exclaimed. ‘Now I see why the person could call you for over an hour. What’s her business with you?’
    ‘We are just friends,’ I replied evasively, ‘at least that’s what it is for now.’
    ‘Are you saying there’s the possibility of things going beyond just friendship?’
    I was done with the questions and arose again. She sensed my mood and arose too.
    ‘I want to go take my bath now,’ I told her and left the table. Ivie smiled and went to her own room. I was in the bathroom some minutes later.
    Over the next one week, I and Tricia were always on phone. It was so pronounced that, to prevent my parents asking, I would switch off my phone whenever I was with them. Tricia could call for over an hour and would constantly send me recharge card pins to call her too. I was getting more attached to her every passing day. I dreaded her, I wanted her, I was wary of her. We could talk for over an hour only for her to call me again in less than two hours’ time.
    Ola was now more responsive, in fact, the chase had changed direction. Whenever I decided to call her, which was gradually less frequent, she would complain about my tone. She would tell me I was no longer enthusiastic about getting her to accede to my request, an accusation I made no attempt to either accept or refute. While we would speak for long durations on such occasions, courtesy of Tricia’s credit vouchers, I could go without calling her again for the next two days. Soon, the calls started pouring in from her. She would inform me of how she wished the strike action would end soon so she could return to school, so we could see. I was no longer keen on seeing her; I was only being courteous in not telling her so outrightly. Ivie relayed her complaints to me; she told me herself that she couldn’t imagine what was wrong with me. It was surprising that after so much effort to get Olanike, I was now totally oblivious of how she felt. While I failed to tell her so, I now saw Ola as a distraction. Tricia was the girl – fair, pretty and rich. She had two cars, a personal driver and travelled overseas every now and then. She had even offered to take me along once I was able to obtain permission from my parents, something I knew would be difficult if not impossible.
    I was eager to meet her and she claimed to want to see me again too. Her curiosity was better satisfied, she had seen me once. She finally agreed to meet me one Monday morning; it had rained all through the night and Morning Devotion had been hell for me, in particular, as I had to be tapped awake several times in the course of it. I was about going back to bed, after the devotion, when my phone rang. I knew who it would be and wasn’t too keen on answering it, the call duration would totally spoil my sleepy mood. I thumbed the answer key anyway.
    ‘Hello, sweetest heart,’ Tricia’s voice came.
    ‘Hello, baby,’ I replied, falling on my bed and closing my eyes.
    ‘How was your night?’ She asked.
    ‘Twas great, and yours?’
    ‘Splendid, I dreamt of you.’
    ‘Really, what did you see me doing?’
    ‘You held me and whispered in my ears that you would always be there for me.’

    To be continued later in the day

    #768456 Reply
    Etz Froshberry
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    #768458 Reply
    Etz Froshberry
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    Right Here!

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    #768494 Reply
    John Walter El Marshall
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    next episode.

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