She was depressed, restless and despondent. She sat head bowed on the sofa in her bedroom with the bottle of alcoholic drink in her hands. S...

The Friend - A Story By Iniobong Leroi Umoh

She was depressed, restless and despondent. She sat head bowed on the sofa in her bedroom with the bottle of alcoholic drink in her hands. She was contemplating suicide. Nothing seemed to be working anymore. How could Tara betray her just like that? A friend she had trusted so much. It was a vicious stab in the back.

She had confided in Tara, she had told her a secret she had carried in her heart for years. But Tara went to spread the secret to everybody at the workplace, making her an object of mockery. She couldn’t forget the judgemental look on their faces when she stepped into the office that morning; the whispers, the side glances, the laughter and smirks. How could she go back to such a place?

Maria was devastated. This was coming at the same time she was yoked with the burden of a failed relationship. Etop had broken her heart, after two years of a relationship she thought was heading to marriage, he had called her to inform her that his parents had chosen a wife for him in the village. He would be getting married in a month’s time. She had raved and cursed at him. It was a betrayal of trust. Her world had fallen apart.

Outwardly she kept a cool and calm demeanour. She kept on the appearance of a glamorous big girl with a great banking job and a nice car, while inwardly, she was a desperate and troubled girl.
Tara was the last person in the world she had expected would betray her. They were good colleagues at the office. They had worked side by side at the teller department before being posted to the operations unit. Sharing the same office, they naturally became close, weaving a strong bond of friendship. They told each other intimate details about their lives. They were just like sisters.

She confided in Tara about her past life as a commercial sex worker in Lagos. It was a dark patch in her life. She had spent 6 months at Allen avenue, hustling in the night to keep body and soul together when everything was bleak, and all doors were shut against her. It was a period of six months in which she got pregnant twice and had to settle for abortion.

“I have never told anybody this before, I feel so ashamed of myself. I am sometimes wracked with guilt over the lives of those two aborted fetuses”

“It is okay Maria, we have all made mistakes in life. Thank God you got over that dark phase of your life. Look at where you are now, I am proud of you.” Tara had consoled her.

But just a week later, they had a heated argument over who was responsible for replying an important brief from the HR manager-none of them wanted to do it. They stopped talking to each other for two days. And Tara told one of their co-workers Maria’s secret and it spread through the office.
Maria trembled as she made the final decision; Suicide.

She dropped the bottle of alcohol and took up her phone, and launched the Opera mini web browser. She was going to search for the best way to kill oneself. Her fingers were shaky as she typed in the search query and waited for it to load. Her index finger mistakenly tapped the Youtube icon on her home screen, and the app launched. Before she could close the app, a video on the screen caught her eyes.

She felt compelled to watch the video. She tapped the link and the video began buffering. It was an old Christian hymn, one she used to enjoyed singing and listening to in her childhood days.

"What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer!”

In her state of despair and hopelessness, Maria watched and listened to the joyful singers as they sang the lyrics of the song which pierced into her heart.

“Take it to the Lord in Prayer?” Maria asked herself.

She couldn’t remember the last time she prayed. She was just a nominal Christian; attending church once in a while and on ceremonial occasions. God was not a part of her life. How would she start praying? She had forgotten how to pray. She was fearful and uncertain if Jesus would listen to her. She didn’t know if He would want to be her friend.

“Can we find a friend so faithful? Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness; Take it to the Lord in prayer.”

Maria needed peace of mind. She needed someone to confide in, to tell her hurts to, to unburden her soul to. She was alone in the world with no friends. All her supposedly friends had turned their backs on her.

“Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer! In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a solace there.”

Maria closed her eyes and started mumbling some words. She didn’t know if it made any sense to Jesus. She was just saying her mind, unburdening her heart to the Lord. After a minute of prayer, she began sobbing and soon all was calm and quiet.

An atmosphere of peace pervaded the room. Maria felt the presence of someone in the room. It was as if an individual was sitting beside her, with his arms around her, comforting her and sharing her burden. Maria knew that it was Jesus who had come to be her friend. It was no coincidence that the Youtube app on her phone was launched when she was on the verge of committing suicide. Now, she has a new sense of belonging and hope. She has resolved to get closer to Jesus Christ, her new friend.

Music Credit: What A friend We have in Jesus hymn
© Leroi


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