“You can’t leave Benin now,” Mrs Ajayi said to Imade on the phone, the next day. “I can’t imagine how chaotic it is over there. What are the police doing about it?”
“I really don’t know. They said they’re looking for her, trying to retrace her last steps. Honestly, I don’t have much faith in them. They want us to print posters with her picture but we decided to go the social media way instead. So, we have put her picture on Facebook, hopefully we get responses.”
“And there’s been no ransom demand?”
“No, just radio silence. I don’t know which scares me more – a ransom demand or no ransom demand.”
“Honey, there’s no fear here. whatever you do, do not let fear take control. I know it’s hard, but you have to keep your eyes on Jesus. You can’t love Lara more than He loves her. you can’t even love her a fraction of the way He loves her. You have to trust in that love right now. The best you can do is pray.”
Imade sighed. What do you do when it seems like all the prayers you were sending up wasn’t getting to heaven, wasn’t getting attended to?
“Have faith, Imade. Keep trusting. It will end in praise. Remember when they arrested Peter? Remember the way the church gathered together to pray for his release? And when finally, he was released, they couldn’t believe it. They had been praying but were shocked by the result. Let’s try not to be like that. Let’s pray and expect answers. Pray and have faith that answers have come.”
“Hmm,” Imade nodded, even though Mrs Ajayi couldn’t see her.
Dapo and his team had formed a small prayer chain for Lara, and Imade had joined in because praying felt better than waiting for the police to send word.
Mrs Osakwe herself was growing hysterical by the day – Dapo told Imade that the entire scenario was bringing back memories of the loss of her family and it was getting increasingly difficult for her to pull herself together.
The school headmaster was doing his best to be present and show support to the police because Mrs Osakwe had threatened to have them arrested for their carelessness; he was also trying to ensure the blame didn’t fall entirely on him so he made it a point of duty to mention Lara’s teacher’s name in every interview he gave. It was a state-owned school designed for the children in that community and their laxity was appalling. How did a child go missing under their watch for over two hours and no one noticed?
“I’ve been praying too,” Mrs Ajayi said. “Lara is safe. She will come home.”
Imade admired Mrs Ajayi’s conviction, as if the fact that she was praying was guarantee enough. It was thirty-three hours since Lara went missing and there was absolutely no news. Even if she was still alive, was she safe? What if she had been taken by pedophiles?
“Okay ma, we hope so,” she replied.
“I’ll call tomorrow. Let me allow you got to sleep. You sound exhausted.”
Indeed she was. She had rushed out that morning to the orphanage to join in the ongoing prayers and provide comfort to Mrs Osakwe. She had eaten her first meal of the day by 2pm – bread and coke that Dapo had gotten for her on his way to the orphanage.
In this crisis, she found that her respect for him had doubled. He had taken charge of the situation with a calmness that awed her, delegating members of his team to carry on with the pre-planned outreach while communicating consistently with the police for updates. She watched him dispense comfort to the other staff in the orphanage, a pat on the back here, a soft word of encouragement there.
As she lay in bed thinking about him, her phone rang. It was Dapo. She glanced at the time – 7:39pm.
“Hey,” his voice sounded tired.
“Hey,” she replied.
“How are you?” he asked.
“I guess I’m okay. You?”
“You sure? You sound tired.”
“Just got back home. Had a couple of meetings after leaving the orphanage.”
“Oh. You eaten?” Imade almost laughed at the pedestrian nature of the question. Was she one of those people now? Have you eaten ke? Oshey.
“Hmm, yes. First real meal of the day, actually. I recall we both ate bread and coke together.”
Imade smiled at the familiar humour in his voice. God, she had missed that.
“Yes, we both ate labourers’ food, thanks to you,” she replied.
“Don’t you dare. Bread and coke is a classic. The taste should be framed and put in a museum for future reference.”
“What? It should be banned!” Imade laughed.
“We would be doing the future a disservice then. They need to partake of such goodness.”
Imade squealed in laughter. “Honestly, you are a scam, this Pastor.”
“You think if Jesus lived in our time, he won’t eat bread and coke? This our Jesus?”
“No, Jesus is classy abeg. He deals in wine, not coke.”
“Be deceiving yourself,” he said, clearing his throat. “Anyway, I was calling to apologise because we didn’t get to hang out at the outreach again.”
“Oh no,” Imade sobered. She was glad to have found a reason to laugh even if for a few minutes. “I know it’s been crazy the past two days.”
“Yes, it has. So, can we…er, raincheck? Maybe when all this is over?”
Imade didn’t know why her heart suddenly began to race. “What do you have in mind?”
“Something proper. I will take you somewhere nice and treat you. Not an apology lunch this time around.”
She laughed. “So, a date?”
“You like that word sha.”
“No sir, I just want to be clear o. The Bible says let your yes be yes and your nay be nay. So, let’s be clear.”
“Yes ma, it’s a date.”
“I…I’ve missed talking to you, Imade.” He said quietly. “Goodnight.”
Without waiting for a response, the call ended.
Okay, what just happened?
Imade didn’t understand why there were a million butterflies in her tummy. What was she, a teenager?
One thing was clear, it seemed she had a small crush on Dapo.
What was he doing? Dapo asked himself as he ended the call. Blurting out that he had missed talking to her like that? Even though it was true, what did it mean? What did all of it mean?
Imade had sashayed into his life twenty years later, and he was letting her get too close.
“What am I doing, Lord?” he whispered into the dark night. “What are you doing?”
He chuckled to himself, it always made him laugh the easy way he communicated with the Holy Spirit, like they were besties.
What would you like to do?
One of the things he loved about the Holy Spirit was the gentle way He usually nudged him towards decisions – He was not forceful, rather Dapo felt like He often took him by the hand and guided him to the answers to his questions.
“Honestly, I don’t know yet,” he replied the Holy Spirit’s question. “I was kinda hoping you would tell me.”
Just then, a knock came on his door.
“Come in,” he said.
The door opened and Dapo’s face lit up when she walked into the room.
“I just finished washing plates, daddy. Going to bed now.”