It was resumption of their final session in the university. For the first time, John was not bothered about the crowdy nature of resumptions anymore. It could have been because he was happy this was the last year in school. It could have been because of the enthusiasm to see Esther. Or, it could have been both. But, John knew the greater reason was because he was meeting Esther on the day of resumption.
John arrived early at school and so did Esther. After settling in their hostels, they met that morning at the cafeteria. They greeted each other with a hug. They felt so glad to have met. It was as though they could not stop talking. There was always something to talk about. John felt Esther was funny. He was mesmerized with her bright smile. Esther had curled her long dark hair, which made John to like it the more. They chatted and did not realized how far time had gone by. John's phone rang. It was Ben calling to know where Ben was. Not long after, John and Esther left the cafeteria and he walked her to her room.
On getting to the room, John was so excited. He told Ben he had something important to tell him. Ben had a hint that Esther and John kept in touch throughout the break. However, Ben was still surprised when John said, "I think I have grown strong emotions for Esther... I think I ... Ehmmm... Love her." "Do you know what you're saying?" Ben replied. However, he did not want John to feel bad. He realized how excited John was, and, he did not want to crush the excitement. At the same time, he knew it was serious because John never knew how to handle emotional matters properly. Ben smiled and added, "No wonder you have been excited all day like honeybee that found nectar; you've been flapping your wings like a butterfly around a flower; wagging your tail like a dog playing fetch." Ben concluded with, "You know you have to pray about it, right?"
John knew Ben was right to have suggested prayer. John understood that as a christian, he had to always be led by the Holy Spirit. He had to know what the will of God was and find the courage to follow the same. He had also learnt from fellowship meetings that one of the ways to identify the will of God on any matter is to pray about it. Despite all he knew, John was afraid to pray. He had cultivated so much emotions for Esther that he was scared to let her go. John wondered if he prayed and he perceives God's will to be a no towards Esther, it would be too difficult to let her go.
One day, John and Esther were walking towards the library as they met one of John's classmates. As they exchanged greetings, John hesitated as he introduced Esther. He did not know who to say she was, whether a friend or something more. If he says she's a friend, he knew he wanted something more than friendship with her. He could not say she was his girlfriend either, because, he had not asked her out. He struggled in his mind till he got a word to use. "Meet my close friend Esther," John said to his classmate as they exchanged pleasantries and shook hands. That was when John knew he had to take Ben's advice seriously. He had to pray and be sure of God's will, so that he would confidently be able to either call Esther his close friend or his girlfriend.
One Sunday evening, John stayed behind at the fellowship building to pray. He did not know how to go about it. He just knelt down, closed his eyes and spoke from his heart. It was more like an explanation than a request. He just kept talking back and forth about how much he loved Esther and how much he wanted to know the will of God. After a few minutes, he left for his hostel. The following morning, during his devotion, he made the same prayer again after he had read a portion of the Bible. He knew he had a feeling strong inside him that made him sure dating Esther was God's will. However, he was not so sure because he thought it could just be reinforced emotions for Esther. So, in his subsequent prayers, he begged God for a sign. John so much wanted a mysterious sign from anywhere that he could interpret. Nothing of such was coming. Until a Sunday morning, the student pastor preached about hearing from God. It was then that John knew that the still voice inside a christian is the voice of the Holy Spirit. This made John convinced of what God's will was. This confirmation of God's will should have resolved all of John's worries, but, there was another problem.
John decided to ask Esther out on a Saturday evening. He had planned to take her to the school garden where the fellowship get together held last session. This was because they first spoke to each other at the school garden. They discussed on a lot of things that evening. John was afraid of starting up the main conversation of the day because of his worry. Even though he knew for sure Esther had feelings for him, he was still somehow scared of how she might react when he asked her out. Eventually, when it was getting late and it was obviously time to leave, John had no choice than to throw his fears away because he did not want to waste a perfectly good evening. John started. In a long time, he had not stammered before a lady. But this time, his speech was filled with lots of stammers. He explained how he had emotions for Esther, how he prayed and how he was convinced about dating her and how he was scared of how she might react if he asked her out. To John's amazement, Esther was smiling all through.
In the end, when he said, "Esther, I love you." She started laughing so much that she fell off her seat. John quickly reached for her before she fell down completely. So, they stood up in each other's arms. John was not so sure of what to think this time. They could not let go of the hug. Esther was still in her laughing mode as she replied, "I love you, too." John felt so relieved. Esther added, "I had already prayed about it and was convinced all through the holiday. I waited for you to make the move all these while. Not knowing that you were scared. And, that was why I laughed." John felt even more relieved. She rested her head on John's shoulder and the hug lasted even longer. John walked her back to her hostel.
That day was the happiest day of John's life. He could not wait to break the news to Ben. He was so excited. He met Ben and Rachael in the room. He told both of them the news. They were both happy for him. Ben teased John by calling him, "Lover boy." John jumped to his bed as he said, "I'm a lover boy. I'm glad to be in love. It feels so good to be in love and be loved in return."
Throughout the semester, John and Esther did almost everything together. They played, read and ate together. It was almost impossible to meet John without finding Esther around. Towards the end of the semester, John's dad lost his job. Things got financially tight at home. John was not receiving as much allowance as he did before. Ben supported John as a friend would.
At the resumption of the second semester, a list was pasted at the department. It contained a few names. John's name was included. It was list of exceptionally excellent students qualified to take a nationwide test for a scholarship to sponsor the student for a masters degree in any desired university in the country. A monetary prize reward was to be given to the top three candidates. It also had an internship program with the World Bank and a possible job offer as well. John was very happy. Five students had been shortlisted from his school. About three hundred students would be taking the test nationwide. He knew he had to prepare even harder. On completing the information on the notice board, he realized a fee had to be paid. That was when the financial implication dawned on him. His sharp mind had calculated the entry fee, travel cost, feeding and accommodation for the two-day program. He knew he could not afford it. He felt very sad. His hope was dashed instantly.
When he told Esther, she assured him not to worry at all. She said she would pay for all the costs that would be incurred for the program. John was really surprised Esther could raise such a large amount of money for him. He could not hide the joy he felt, as he hugged her, lifter her up and gave a kiss on her head. Ben was very happy for John that he could participate in the program.
John prepared so hard for the test. He could not bare to think the money Esther had dropped would go to waste if he lost. He prayed everyday that he should win. Soon, it was the weekend for the program. John went in his black suit. He was not intimidated when he heard the other candidates were the best students in their own universities. After the test, the grand speech and banquet the following day, the winners were announced. John emerged the best student in the test. The runner ups were from different universities in the country. John was so happy that he called Esther immediately to tell her about the good news.
He arrived at school the next day. John became so famous as his name and picture appeared on the national newspaper as the first prize winner. He had been interviewed by television stations after the program which aired live that evening. He received the cash prize the following week. Esther and John had a personal celebration. Ben, Rachael and Esther organized a little celebration for John. John was quite glad he had friends who he could share his up and down moments with.
(To be continued...)
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