The Choice (chapter 10)

Sarah sat at her desk, working on a file with snail speed, her face deprived of its usual liveliness.

Jummy approached Sarah, a ledger in her grip. "Sarah, you didn't sign the new entries. And you are yet to complete the list of new clients," Jummy said and dropped the ledger on Sarah's table. Sarah looked up at her friend. "Which new entry?" she said. Jummy flipped the pages of the ledger and pointed to a page. "These. You have to sign that you worked on the files." She turned the pages again. "And here, you have to complete this list. The number here doesn't tally with the one in the registration folder," Jummy said, pointing at another page of the ledger. Sarah clumsily took a pen and signed at the end of the page.

Jummy observed. It was unusual for Sarah to append her signature to any document without proper scrutiny. And she often didn't omit what she ought to do. "What's wrong with you, Sarah?" Jummy said. Sarah shook her head. "I'm okay. Is there anything else you want me to do? I'll complete the list as soon as you're done using the ledger." "Are you sure you're fine?" Sarah nodded. "Yes, I am. Thank you." "You're welcome." Jummy took the ledger and walked away. Sarah continued her work, and her attention span was greatly reduced, plaguing her work with errors.

Jummy returned to the cubicle where Sarah worked. "Hi, again," she said and smiled. Sarah raised her head. "What did I forget this time around?" she said. "Why are you this apprehensive? What's going on?" "Jummy, I've told you that I'm fine," Sarah said. "And you think I'm stupid enough to believe that?" Jummy sat beside Sarah and patted her hair. "You didn't even make your hair or pack it properly. And you know how natural hair looks when unkempt," Jummy said. "I thought I would be able to make it yesterday, but I was too tired. I will fix it this weekend. If I can't make it this weekend, I'll cut it off and take a break," Sarah said and scratched her brow. Jummy widened her eyes. "What! Like seriously? You? You, Sarah, are considering a haircut. This is a joke of the century." "I'm tired of making the hair. The cost, and most especially the time, is exorbitant. I can no longer afford it," Sarah said in a sad voice. Jummy needed no other hint to know something grave had happened to Sarah. Sarah had natural, beautiful, lustrous, and long black hair. And she had put the hair to good use in enhancing her beauty. If Sarah said she wanted a haircut now, it meant there was something forcing her to give up on her looks."

"I know you, Sarah. You can afford it. So tell me what's going on. What's wrong with you? Why would you do that to yourself?" Jummy said. "I'm not doing anything to myself. I said I'm fine," Sarah insisted. Jummy adjusted in her seat. "You are not fine, so talk to me. You should know I won't leave until you tell me what's on your mind." "You can't understand, Jummy." "Try me." Sarah's eyes grew misty. "What's wrong with me is bigger than what you can imagine. I'm in deep water. I don't know what to do." Jummy gently patted Sarah's back. "Talk to me. What's wrong?" "I'm having issues with Femi," Sarah said, and tears dripped from her eyes. She quickly mopped the tears with the hem of her skirt. "Sarah, please stop crying. What issues? Tell me more about it," Jummy said, compassion written on her face. "I've lost Femi. He has left me." Jummy's eyes widened. "What! How come? What exactly went wrong? What happened?" Sarah hesitated and sobbed. "You can talk to me, Sarah. And you have to stop crying. Now tell me. What happened?" Sarah cleared her throat.

"Femi's family members want me pregnant before our wedding." "Are you for real?" "Yes. It's been over a month since they said it." "Oh my! But you didn't tell me about it." "I couldn't. I was busy trying to find a way out," Sarah said. "So, what have you done?" "I've tried my best to convince them, but they wouldn't budge. I'm tired. I don't know what to do." "This is big. I'm not even sure of what to say. Have you talked to the pastor?" "Yes, I have. It was really difficult thinking about it all alone. I had to tell the pastor," Sarah said. "So what did Pastor say?" "Well, he encouraged me and said I shouldn't do it. It is a sin against God." Jummy nodded. "That's true. The pastor is right. But then, come to think of it. The world is running faster than you think.

Some things that were big deals at a time are no longer so. So it will be improper to judge all things by an old concept. There have been drastic changes in the world; I'm sure God is aware as well," Jummy said. Sarah lifted her eyes to meet her friend's eyes. "So, what exactly are you saying?" Sarah said. "I'm trying to point out the fact that sometimes circumstances determine actions. So there's no rigid 'how-to' for everything," Jummy said. Sarah shot her friend a questioning look."So?" "Sarah, try to understand what I'm saying. If Femi will indeed marry you with his parents' consent, what stops you from getting pregnant? Probably Femi's parents have fears about fertility. Prove to them that you can have a baby. And even if they want you pregnant for a different reason, you can still do what you have to in order to get your man out of their control."

Sarah stared at Jummy in surprise as she talked. She could hardly believe her ears. "Really? Are you saying I should go ahead and fornicate with Femi in order to get him to marry me?" Sarah said.

"Please don't heap sins on my head, madam. That's not exactly what I'm saying. Fornication isn't even the term for this. It's not as if you guys are not ready to get married. See, the world has evolved, my dear. I'm not encouraging you to sin but think about it. Will you just throw away your relationship with Femi like that? Will you rather go back to the state of waiting on God for a man to approach you? You know what you went through before Femi showed up in your life. Have you thought about all of that? My dear, I'm just saying all these out of my deep love and concern for you," Jummy said. Sarah sighed. She hated bringing her experiences to mind. She wanted nothing to do with the past no longer. She had been jilted enough in the past. Perhaps Jummy was right. Jummy searched Sarah's eyes. "What do you intend to do?" she said.

"As I earlier said, I've spoken with our pastor. And he said I mustn't try it," Sarah said. "Hear yourself, Sarah. Is the pastor supposed to say, 'Go ahead, daughter, get pregnant before your wedding'? Wouldn't you tell the world which particular pastor said what thereafter? It's just like expecting a teacher to tell his student to play when an examination is fast approaching. It's not as if the student wouldn't play, but the teacher wouldn't want to be quoted. The Bible says, "Wisdom brings success." Be wise, Sarah. I repeat, be wise," Jummy said and adjusted in her seat. Sarah heaved a sigh. Her head ached. Not only because she had been having trouble sleeping for days now but also because her mind was unsettled. Thoughts weighed her down."

"I don't want to lose Femi. I really don't want to. I'm no longer sure of what to do," Sarah said and dropped her hands on her thighs. "You can begin by listening to me. You just can't lose your relationship with Femi like that. You guys have been courting for how many months now? Probably a year or one and a half. Or should I just say two years? Whichever applies, it's not worth discarding like a piece of trash. And I see Femi no longer supports your fanaticism." "What's that supposed to mean? I'm not a fanatic, Jummy. And I didn't expect that from you." "Are you angry? I'm only saying Femi wouldn't support your insistence. Maybe I was wrong. Femi agrees with your views, right?" Sarah paused. She knew Femi no longer agreed with her. It was obvious. He hadn't called her in a week, and over now. And each time she tried to reach him, he didn't respond. She couldn't lie. "No. I was hoping he would understand. But he didn't. Maybe, I should just give up on him," Sarah said. "You can't give up on him. Not after all you've been through. He loves you, and you love him too. You can't allow his family to come in between you two. Give them what they want, and they will leave you two alone.

Remember, you're no longer a kid. Time waits for nobody." "God has time and season in His hands." "All right, I agree with you. But I know you're no longer a child. Many ladies get pregnant before weddings everywhere now. And that didn't exclude the long-skirt-wearing, tongue-blasting, no-makeup-wearing, religious sisters. Some sisters don't even bother about getting wedded at all.

They just move in with brothers and start having children. As in, you can't count how many people do it. That seems to be the norm now. So stop being rigid," Jummy said. Sarah shook her head. "Even if that is the norm, should we conform to that as God's children? 2 Timothy 2:19 says, 'Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "'The Lord knows those who are His,"' and, "'Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."' How can I do such a thing and sin against God just because I don't want to lose a man who might not stay with me forever? I'll rather stand with God and trust Him. He has told me to be patient. I prefer to be patient." "All right. No problem. If that's what you want, so be it. But you need not be morose and apathetic to your job." Sarah nodded. "Alright. Thank you. I appreciate your concern." Jummy rose to her feet. "You would listen to me if truly you appreciated my concern," she said and walked away. Sarah rested her head on the table and wept. She needed strength from God now, more than ever before."

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