She sensed a cloud of darkness the moment she stepped into the party. It was suffocating, terribly uncomfortable. Uzoma chided herself once again. She shouldn’t be here at all.
Andrew had made her come. She certainly wasn’t doing any of the trash they did here. She thought a birthday party should be a quiet event with friends and family, not some mini clubbing. She’d just wish him well and get out of here.
Her eyes darted around, searching for him. She ignored guys who winked at her. Let just one unfortunate person mistakenly come near her. He would say goodbye to one of his ears. She spotted Andrew sitting at a table, nursing his booze and consistently ignoring the chattering girl who sat next to him, stroking his arm. He stood when he saw her.
“Hey yourself. Is this how to celebrate a birthday?”
The girl who was with Andrew raised an eyebrow. “Who is she?”
“Not someone you know. Can you go play around or something. We need some privacy.”
The girl clucked her tongue. “Just don’t forget…” she deliberately trailed off, her voice deceptively silky and heavy with erotic innuendos. She winked at him and sauntered away.
“Andrew, is this how to celebrate a birthday?”
He sat again and took a gulp of his drink. “I told you that my friends are hosting it. It’s not my fault babe.”
“It’s time you get new friends. And how many bottles of that have you taken already?”
He shrugged. “Just 5.”
“Seriously. You’re not taking another one.”
“I don’t plan to.”
“Good. So why did you invite me here in the first place?”
“Aren’t you being too rigid? Relax. It’s just a birthday. Have fun.”
“Did you ever consider that your definition of fun and mine might be worlds apart?”
He reached for another bottle of alcohol. “Well… I only wanted to talk with you on my birthday. I don’t feel connected to any of these people. Having a friend around would be wonderful.”
She reached the bottle first and put it on the floor. “If you don’t feel connected to your friends, why not change them?”
He shrugged dismissively. “That doesn’t change anything.”
They continued discussing for a long time, with Andrew’s friends coming around and demanding to be introduced to his babe. She protested that she was just his friend from school and they most definitely weren’t dating.
They literally ignored her. They’d told her that Andrew was evil and she’d better run for dear life. She’d laughed and replied that she was ten times more dangerous than he could ever be. The music was so loud her ears tingled and the air was thick with darkness, sweat, alcohol and passion. She wanted to throw up. They were soon left alone as everyone converged at the dance floor.
“I’ve always wanted to ask you this. Uzoma, please tell me the truth,” he pleaded, his eyes searching hers.
“Truth about what?” she retorted.
“Truth about us. Is there even an us?”
“What do you mean?” Uzoma asked, taking her aching head in her hands. The whole activity was rather exhausting.
“Is there an us… or is it all in my head? You, me, do we have something here?”
“There was never an us or anything like that. We’re just two people that happen to be close friends. Simply because I’ve been trying to see if you will have mercy on yourself and change. I’ll soon get tired and go my way. Isi aki.”
He laughed, leaning back on the chair. “Your stubbornness is mine multiplied by ten thousand. I honestly appreciate what you’re doing. I hope I can finally find the courage I need to take the bold step towards the right path this time. Thank you for not giving up on me.”
“Hmm. How can I give up on whom God did not give up on?” She stood. “Please I need to visit the restroom. I’ll be back in a jiffy.” She matched outside, inhaling deeply, grateful for the gift of fresh air. All she wanted to do was go back to school. She shouldn’t have come here at all. She stood, staring at the stars.
That was when she heard it. It was a female voice. The voice seemed to be weeping. The very sound of it broke her heart.
She walked back into the hallway and traced the voice to the restroom. It as the girl she had met with Andrew. The girl sat on the floor, her arms wrapped around her legs, carefully dabbing the tears from her eyes and blowing her nose noisily. Uzoma was at loss for what to do.
“Hello. Are you okay?” she asked gingerly.
The girl looked up abruptly and quickly comported herself. “Yeah…” she drawled, hoping it came out sounding carefree. She stood and made for the sink.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” she snapped, getting agitated.
Uzoma didn’t seem to notice. “Okay. You’re Andrew’s friend right? I wanted to know your name.”
She washed her face and took out her makeup kit to reapply her ruined makeup. “I’m Stella.”
“I’m Uzoma.” She smiled warmly. “I like your hair. Is it bone straight?”
She drew a perfect eyebrow. “Yeah. I bought it for 250k.”
“Wow. That’s nice. It’s so pretty and it fits you perfectly. You’re beautiful.” Uzoma touched the silky wig, exuding so much friendliness.
Stella smiled for the first time. “Thank you.”
Uzoma returned the smile. “I wanted to escape from the place for a while. So, I came out to take a walk.”
Stella stopped short of drawing the other eyebrow and looked at her through the mirror. “I don’t know… You don’t seem like the kind of girl that should be somewhere like this.”
“Yeah. You don’t too. So I’m actually wondering what we are both doing here. When do you intend to leave?”
Stella shrugged. “How did you get to know Andrew?”
“He’s my colleague at school. A class ahead of me,” Uzoma said, reaching out to remove the hair caught in Stella’s earrings, surprising her.
“Wow. That’s nice.” She carefully applied her mascara.
“Yeah. Are you a student too?”
“Yeah.” She painted her lips black.
“How did you get to know him?”
“From a club,” she said abruptly, bracing herself for the criticism that was bound to come.
“Okay. Hope you had fun at the party tonight?”
None came. Hmm.
Uzoma smiled again. “I like you already. You have a nice and warm personality.”
Stella twisted her mouth wryly. “You’re the very first person I’m hearing that from.”
“I mean it. What do you study?”
They were soon chattering away and laughing. Uzoma navigated the discussion to things that interested the girl, remembering to just laugh and keep her opinions to herself. The last thing Stella needed was some mighty, religious governess dishing out criticisms on everything she said. That was the fastest way to scare away the girl.
They eventually hit the topic again. Why was she crying in a restroom all by herself?
Stella’s eyes moistened again and she blinked back the tears. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay dear.”
“All this; the wild life, the bitchy attitude, drinking and smoking. I’ve tried really hard to stop, you know.” She chuckled bitterly. “I’m not your kind of girl. I’m not pure, perfect or Christian like you.”
“Don’t say that,” Uzoma chided. “I have my own stories too. I’ve made really horrible mistakes.”
Stella continued as if she didn’t hear her.
“I’ve tried to leave men alone, but I just can’t. I don’t want to do this, but I just keep doing it. Each time they touch me, I feel filthy, used, worthless. Then I vow never to return, but it doesn’t last. I don’t feel like myself until I return. Then I get depressed again and go out partying, hoping to fill the emptiness. I hate myself.” She tried to shrug it off and returned to pressing her phone.
They were now sitting alone in the hallway leading to the restroom. Uzoma wanted to cry. She saw a trapped soul crying for help, but the first thing people would do was hurl unkind words at her. The poor girl was caged in a mad cycle of sin, shame, guilt, helplessness, repeat.
“Babe, I’ve also done things I didn’t want to do. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop. That was when I realised that this thing is not by muscle o. At all,” Uzoma said.
“I know what you’re going to say next. Come to Jesus and He’ll set you free and all that. Don’t worry, I can’t be set free. I’ve tried, probably harder than anyone else.” Stella stood, dusted her mini skirt and pulled out a cigarette. “For instance, if I don’t smoke this right now, I’ll die. Sorry.”
“Feel free my dear. Just know that you won’t die if you stop. You didn’t ask how I overcame my own issues. You can do this babe. I’m telling you that it’s totally possible. Just give me a chance to introduce you to Jesus afresh and let’s fight this together. I’ll be standing right next to you this time, teaching you the little I know, praying with you, helping you up each time. You will never have to do it alone. I promise.”
Stella shrugged dismissively. “How did you become friends with a guy like Andrew?”
“Well, Andrew is a good guy. He’s a great friend. He loves God. His friends just ain’t helping and he’s kinda trapped in the whole lifestyle. He needs help.”
“And you think you can help him?”
Uzoma laughed. “Babe, I can’t help anyone. I don’t have a perfect life myself. I’ll just share a bit of how much God has helped me and then pray he decides to give it a try.”
“Okay. Please give me your number. As long as you don’t bug me though,” Stella said, pouting playfully.
“Alright dear. Bug you with what?”
“Attending fellowship, Bible study and stuff, or trying to force your beliefs down my throat. I’m just letting you in cos you’re not like the rest. I’m actually surprised you’ve not dished out a bucket of judgemental words already. That’s what they all do. And I’m not even trying to impress them, cos I don’t really care. They feel they’re better than everyone else and maybe, this is my fate in life. I’ll rather face it squarely than have some person condemn me to hell.”
“Stella. I’ve already told you that if not that God Himself found me, I would have been so lost. Eziokwu m. Even as a Christian, I face challenges daily. It’s just the grace of God keeping me o. Otherwise. Hmm, let me not even go there.
“So, this thing is really about sincerely desiring and seeking God’s help. It’s about being willing to do what He wants, even against our wishes. It doesn’t happen in one day my dear. I simply refused to let the devil control me. I fought daily, rising again even after falling. Crawling back to Jesus again and again and again.
“I was so ashamed, but I simply refused to let go. It wasn’t easy, but by the help of God, I began to drop all those things until they became foreign and annoying sef. Babe, you can do this thing. It will be quite a battle, but not to worry, that’s what Jesus is going to do. He will supply the strength and grace you need to stand strong. Just calm down, the time to bug you haff nor reach.”
“Thank you nne. I don’t even know how you managed to get these things out of me. I just saw myself talking,” Stella said, feeling slightly embarrassed.
“Odiegwu. There’s nothing to hide my dear. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. I started from somewhere too. In fact, it’s a total sign of bravery on your part, for you to stand up to the challenges. Please let’s be going o, before Andrew starts looking for me,” Uzoma said.
Stella burst into laughter. “I’m sure he’s already sleeping on the chair. Thank God he has a friend like you.”
They strolled back to the party room and true to Stella’s words, there he was, snoring away in his seat. They dragged him from sleep back to school. His friends continued the party on his behalf.
The kingdom of darkness just lost a soul because Yahweh’s daughter showed up at a party. If we perhaps reached out with love, maybe we’d be able to reach these lost ones. They want to be free, but they’re struggling. If we only view them through the eyes of love, we wouldn’t write them off so easily. Souls are crying for help. Don’t shut the door to salvation in their faces.
Many times we’re inflated by the idea of our own righteousness, forgetting that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Hold out a hand. Offer a shoulder.
This too, is LOVE.
God bless you as you reach out in love.