As far as academics were concerned, Saturday mornings were less hectic for Saint but as far as house chores went, they were very busy indeed. This particular Saturday was one of such days. Though it was a bit gloomy and it seemed like the sun wasn’t going to shine bright enough to dry up all the clothes he had painstakingly washed and hung outside, Saint’s jolly mood was not affected at all.
He was actually singing out loud while fetching water from the borehole station nearby. Saint always took it upon himself to ensure that every empty water can or drum in the house was filled to the brim during the weekend. Udobio Street was one of the many streets in Uyo that didn’t have access to pipe borne water.
His mother ran a small bukka just opposite their three bedroom flat. Attached to this three bedroom building were four one-room apartments that were rented out to tenants. This was the only landed property the poor woman inherited after the death of her husband a long time ago. This and the bukka were what had helped in paying off her son’s education bills and catering for all their needs. She was glad that he was now in his final year and would soon graduate, get a job and become a man of his own.
She was really happy to see him so full of life this morning. Nothing made her heart merrier than to see her only son, her only hope, wake up on the right side of the bed. Mrs. Offiong knew her son had not had the best life had to offer and always felt it was this situation that had taken a negative toll on the boy’s emotions. True, life had not been fair to both of them but she knew her son could be happier if only he could focus on the positive like he was doing this morning.
On the other hand, Saint was in such a good mood because he was expecting Mfon in his home today. Infact, he was walking on cloud nine. He was sure that she was going to make it because she never failed to keep to her promises. He had become a happier student since the day he met her, she had lit up his heart and given him reason to smile every morning.
Initially, he was skeptical about inviting Mfon to his home, but she had insisted that if their relationship were to be taken seriously, he must allow her visit his home. Left to Saint, he would have preferred taking her to one of his friend’s appartments where the environment was more affluent than his. He just hoped the wretched old house and poor environment wouldn’t make her reconsider the blooming relationship.
It was almost noon by the time he was done with his house chores. He decided he was going to continue writing his story once he was through with having his bath. That way he would be less impatient waiting for Mfon.
Saint was still in the bathroom when Mfon came visiting. She wasn’t surprised to see his mother in a small space outside the building attending to a customer. Mfon could see the unmistakable resemblance between mother and son. She found herself speculating how much of an attractive woman Saint’s mum must have been during her youth.
Talking about attraction, Mfon was yet to understand why she had been so strongly attracted to Saint. But she was certain his good looks alone were not the sole reason she always wanted to be around him since they met two weeks ago. He was funny and easy to talk to. These two factors had made being around him so natural
“Good afternoon ma, I will like to see Saint please.” She politely greeted the older woman. Saint had asked her to approach his mother for his whereabouts when she got to his home.
“Welcome, my daughter. Saint is in the house.” Mrs. Offiong tapped the little girl that helped her with her business chores, “Eka, go and tell Saint that he has a visitor,” then to Mfon, “Have a seat, my daughter.”
“Thank you Ma.” Mfon made herself comfortable on a nearby stool. “How is business?”
“We thank God, my daughter. Are you my son’s classmate?”
“No, I am his friend,” Mfon replied. Talking to Saint’s mother was like talking to a female Saint. She was a likeable woman.
“You don’t know how happy I am to see you. My son hardly brings his friends home. I sometimes feel he is as lonely in school as he is at home.” Even as she spoke these words, Mfon could glimpse the sadness in her soul.
Perhaps the loneliness she saw in her son was actually a reflection of how she felt inside, Mfon thought.
“Saint is not as lonely as you think, Ma. He has his school work and friends to occupy his time; you just have to stop worrying about him” she advised.
Mrs Offiong smiled, “Yes, he is lonely and unhappy. He has been like that since he lost his sister.”
“His sister? I only knew he lost his dad.” Mfon said wonderingly.
“His dad was bedridden for a very long time before he died five years ago. When he finally died, my son and I knew it was the best for the three of us. We took his death in good faith and thanked God for his life, but it was the loss of his twin sister that made my son a lonely and depressed person.”
Mfon sharply looked up at the older woman. “Twin sister?” she echoed.
Mrs. Offiong smiled. It was a weak smile but it made her look prettier and younger. “Yes, his twin sister. Saint lost her to kidnappers when they were both five. She was his best half… they were so close to each other… so when she was taken away… he kind of lost part of himself.”
Mfon had no idea what to say in response, but she was glad the older woman looked like she could handle telling the story.
“You can’t imagine how the whole family felt when my daughter was taken from us. I think that was the day my husband started dying and my son lost his strength.” She looked at Mfon, it was a serious look. “He has been very happy since morning and in past few days; I want to guess it is all because of you. You bring out a new him. I just want you to be there for him and take care of my lonely son.”
Mfon could just nod her head in acceptance of the older woman’s request. She had succeeded in making her see Saint from a different point of view.
“Madam, food dey?” a customer interrupted them in an uncouth tone.
Coincidentally, Saint opened the building’s main entrance door and signaled to her.
Mfon stood up, “Alright ma, I will be inside.”
“Okay, my daughter.” Mrs. Offiong replied without looking up.
Mfon walked into his room. It was typically under furnished yet neat student’s room. A ten inch Mouka foam lay on the floor at the opposite left, very close to the window. Opposite the mattress was an artificial wardrobe with two pairs of shoes and a pair of sandals on the floor beside it.
The right side of the room had a reading table and a modern CD deck at opposite ends. The deck was the only expensive looking item in the room. There were so many books beside the reading table and on top of it.
Mfon made herself comfortable on the wooden chair near the table. The neatness of the room really appealed to her.
“What were you discussing with my mum?” Saint asked with a curious look on his face. He was still standing and obviously glad that she was around.
“We were talking about your sister… the one that got kidnapped.” She didn’t know why she was so direct; perhaps she wanted to hear what he has to say.
Saint’s expression remained indifferent. “Oh, my sister. That was a long time ago, I can’t even remember what she looked like, I just know it was a childhood traumatic event.”
“I can’t even imagine what you went through.”
“Yes… do you know what we call repression?
“Repression? Isn’t that an act of suppressing emotions?”
“Exactly. In psychology, repression is a defense mechanism that enables an individual to block unwanted or traumatic thoughts. It is an unconscious act of forgetting traumatic events in our lives; especially ones that happened at childhood so as to enable the child grow up normally. The traumatic thoughts do not go away forever; they are repressed into the subconscious and so sometimes pop up in dreams or during moments of anxiety. Honestly, I have almost forgotten that event but my mum believes the loss of my sister at childhood had a major effect on my personality even though I can’t remember it all.”
“Do you believe her?” she asked.
“She could have a point. If not, how can we explain my persistent feelings of deep loneliness and insecurity…I must confess, I wish I had another sibling. I am not just emotionally strong.” He was deep in thought as he spoke.
Mfon wanted to give him a hug.
“Well, I have my stories and studies to take my mind off these things. That is the only place I can channel my already weak energy to, which is another defense mechanism known as sublimation,” he added.
Mfon looked at the opened book on the reading table, “Mmm, I can see that you have been pretty busy. Now I see where all the energy and inspiration comes from.”
“Yes… err, welcome to my home. What can I offer you please?”
“I am okay; I really don’t feel like anything for now. Maybe I might demand for a hot plate of rice from your mum.”
He drew closer to her, “Do you mean it? You really don’t want to take anything?
Okay, how about a kiss?” Saint couldn’t believe his boldness. He was never like this with Linda. This girl was surely bringing out another side of him.
She looked at him intensely, “Alright, a kiss will do.”
He couldn’t believe his ears, but he bent down and they had their first kiss. It was an amazing 35 seconds french kiss and when it ended, he was sad to find himself still on earth and not in heaven.
One thing Saint had learnt in the few days he’d been hanging out with her was that she was a spontaneous person. She could come up with a surprise at anytime.
“I have decided that I will take your manuscript home and type them in my laptop. I am also planning to post it on an online forum, let’s see what people will say about it,” she suggested.
Left to him he would have continued with the kiss and forgotten about the book. But he was also glad for the topic she brought up since it helped smoothen the awkward after-kiss moment.
“Thanks, I have actually been wondering how I was going to get them in soft copies for easy editing and manipulation. You are a savior… But I don’t know if posting the story on line is a good idea.”
“Yes it is. Don’t worry, I am not going to post everything; just a few chapters. You know, it will be good to know what others think about the story, especially anonymous others. That way, we will know if it is a good story.”
He thought it a nice idea. “Okay, let’s do it. The bad news is that I am just in Chapter 3 and I think Im experiencing writers bloc but …I believe I will get over it.”
“No problem, anything will do.” She quickly said.
He was glad that she had opted to type the story for him and he thought having other people read his story made sense, but most of all, he felt having her around was great so he bent forward and gave her a hug.
She held onto him and suddenly felt it was her responsibility to take care of him.
That night Mfon got home, despite being tired, she decided to immediately start typing the story into her laptop. She couldn’t wait to start reading while she typed; perhaps she was also partly curious to see what the brilliant Saint could come up with.
He had kept her busy all day with intelligent discussions- not that it was her first time to notice this trait since they met- but she just couldn’t help being amazed by the young man’s philosophy about life. He seemed to have an answer to every question about human behavior and knew how to describe and explain why people did the things they did. Everything he said made perfect sense.
He had made her understand that the story was just a result of abstract reasoning. According to Saint, writing fictional stories was not his thing, but he just had to respond to a niggling feeling to try something new. He had started to write the story even without thinking hard; he just followed a line of thought that made little sense.
Saint had confessed that writing the story had been really challenging, but he had just decided to start even though he really had a half hearted intention of seeing it through. He had already decided that if the task of writing the story became too much for him, he would stop.
Mfon believed that it would be interesting and so couldn’t wait to read it.
The semester was just beginning and so academic pressure wasn’t yet much. She made dinner for herself, turned on her Hp Laptop and began to type.
It was an interesting story just as she had thought. His power of description and imagination was really admirable. She was much intrigued when he explained the significance of the golden medallion. It wasn’t just important because it was made of pure gold, but because a troublesome evil spirit had been locked up in it by the gods for years. This was why the Ibibio Monastery was formed – to protect the medallion. The monks in the monastery were special people who were pure both in spirit and in heart. Saint went ahead to explain that the Medallion was not supposed to be held by a corrupt minded person, as this would release the locked evil spirit. This was why the presence of the monastery was kept secret and visitors where thoroughly scrutinized before being attended to by the monks.
Chapter One of the story ended with a description of how the Medallion was stolen from the monastery and taken to Abuja where it was meant to be sold by the three thieves as a precious object.
Soon, Mfon began to feel sleepy. She saved her work and went to lie down on her bed. She couldn’t wait to continue the work on Sunday morning.
That night she dreamt that the story made Saint a star.
The monastery had been in absolute silence for the past thirteen days. All the monks had expected that their Chief Monk would call them after the three days fasting and isolation as earlier instructed and explain to them how he had decided they would retrieve the Medallion back. But since he didn’t say anything to anyone, they had all continued to wait on him while keeping to theirselves.
By the 13th day, however, the junior monks noticed that nine of the senior elders had been in the chamber all day, discussing something important with the chief monk. Later that evening, Odion, one of the junior monks was called into the chamber. He was made to stand in front of the elders. He was just 20years old and couldn’t fathom why he had been summoned.
“The fate of this monastery, our soul, the life of innocent citizens and sustenance of peace among the gods lie in your hand.” The chief monk said. “You have been chosen to embark on the mission of retrieving the Medallion.”
The surprised Odion looked up at him. How could he be chosen to retrieve the medallion? He was just an inexperienced kid who didn’t really know his left from his right. Yes, he was a dedicated monk but so was every other person in the monastery.
He had been brought into the monastery when he was just a year old. Like most of the monks, he had never stepped his foot outside the monastery. He didn’t have any idea what happened outside the monastery. In fact he wasn’t even sure a real world existed outside the monastery. To him, stories about the world outside the monastery were nothing but fairy tales.
But who was he to challenge the order of the Chief Monk?
“You will involve yourself in three days fasting and isolation. After which you will leave the monastery in search of the medallion. Do not be afraid, the gods have chosen you for a reason,” the chief monk continued.
Odion felt he was speaking in parables, “But how do I locate the medallion? I don’t know a thing about the outside world. What do I do?”
“During your isolation and meditation, the gods will direct you to the story bearer; a young intelligent student writer. He already has a full dose of spiritual energy. That energy will lead you to him”
“A writer?” mumbled the confused young monk.
“Yes… the writer” the chief monk maintained. “He is the backup plan of the gods.”
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