To read the first installment of this story, click here.
“Um excuse me,” she said, “can I talk to you?”
Caleb nodded and faced her, wondering what she had to say. “I’m sorry if this is awkward, you just look very familiar.”
He wanted to tell her she also looked familiar, and that she was pretty. The way her skin looked clear and smooth; the way it glowed and reminded him of the chocolate bars his Aunty used to bring from London before she died. But instead, he smiled and nodded, like an idiot.
“What’s your name?” She asked and he answered, “Caleb.”
She gasped and he frowned a little. “Caleb Audu?”
His frown deepened. How did she know his full name?
“Can’t you remember me? Mercy Balogun?”
His mind began a frantic search. Mercy Balogun… Mercy Balogun. Wait…that Mercy Balogun?
The girl they all made fun of in secondary school, and teased because of her flat chest and oversized head? He looked at her again, searching for something that would help him properly recognise her. He found them. Her narrow set of eyes and a mole that sat on her cheeks.
Mother of glow ups! Mercy got hot.
“Oh my God! Mercy! You look really good.”
She smiled and they shook hands. Cable suddenly felt awkward as memories flew into his head. Memories of the many insults he joined other students to whisper at her and the profane things he wrote on the back of her notes. Why did he do those things then, even though they were obviously messed up? It was because Chimdi started it and Caleb wanted to be part of his group so badly. Being in Chimdi’s group then, was the first step towards popularity. Something his teenage self craved more than anything.
“Um. . . Mercy. . . I . . . um. . . I’m sorry for. . . um. . . you know.”
She laughed again. “It’s fine Caleb.”
“No its not. We did some really terrible things to you.”
“And I forgave all of you a long time ago.”
“Because of the love of Christ in me.”
Caleb raised an eyebrow and she chuckled. “Okay, maybe there was a time I felt like stabbing you with a pencil. But I soon got to experience Christ’s love and he has healed the parts of my soul people like you left cracked.”
Caleb smiled shyly and looked down. He felt too timid to meet her eyes. He had spent the early minutes of the service, judging everyone else in his head, and wondering why people like that were let into the church, and now, here was a living proof of his own imperfection, talking to him.
She led him out of the church compound and they spoke some more. She had moved to Lagos six months ago for her youth service, found this place three months later, and was already a recognised dedicated member.
He told her about the stress of his final year in school, and how he hoped he would graduate and get it all over it. She told him it would be fine. He asked for her phone number, even though he didn’t know how he was going to call her, and he was glad she didn’t ask about his phone when he scribbled it on his palm with a pen he left permanently in his pocket. They soon parted ways, and Caleb stopped a commercial motor bike to take him back to school.
That night in his room, he kept thinking about what the pastor taught. So God really just forgets about our sins? Was it like how Mercy claimed she had forgiven his? Hmm. He would have to attend the next Sunday service. He wasn’t sure he would be able to attend their midweek services because he was always too busy on Wednesdays and would be too tired in the evenings. But he would have to go next Sunday. He hoped the Pastor would speak more on this “saving grace.” He also hoped he would see Mercy again. He had to. He had not been able to take her laugh out of his head all day. They way she smiled, with two of her front teeth a little bigger than the rest and how she didn’t seem to mind.
His roommate walked in. Probably back from the library. They said “hey,” to each other and he quietly put his laptop on the reading table. They had both been introduced to each other by the landlord. Caleb was tired of living on campus, and was looking to rent a one-room apartment, while the boy was about to start his first year, and needed an apartment close to school. So they decided to live together and split the rent.
Now, six weeks into the semester, they weren’t what anybody would call close, his roommate did annoying fresher things, like play gospel music everyday, and not know when to leave the room when Caleb brought a girl in. Still they managed to live together without any serious incident.
“Uh. . . Dapo. How far?” Caleb asked. Dapo shrugged. “I dey. Today was just somehow. Went to read after church but I couldn’t concentrate at all.”
“Don’t worry, you’ll try again. Um… Dapo, can you play that song you’ve been playing since last week?”
“I thought you didn’t like it when I played my music out loud.”
“Yeah, I still don’t. I just want to hear that song now.”
Dapo narrowed his eyes, and then smiled. “OK, which one?” He asked.
“That one that goes… “I couldn’t earn it, I cannot have it?”
Dapo laughed and shook his head, “Do you mean reckless love?”
“Yes! That song.”
“OK,” Dapo said and tapped a button on his logged off laptop. The screen came to life and he unlocked it. Then he clicked on his media player and selected the song. Caleb watched him, and sat back, to close his eyes when he saw the song had been selected.
Soon the singer’s voice met his ears, and Caleb listened to the lyrics for what felt like the millionth time, only it felt a little different this time. He would ask Dapo to send him this song, and the one that choir lady sang. He would also have to find a way to call Mercy this week. He sang along with some words as the song played
“Before I took a breath, you breathed your life in me…”