UNFORGIVEN VII

…continued from Unforgiven VI

unforgiven

She didn’t resist as his lips claimed hers. They were soft and warm. The kiss stripped her of her resolve, her confidence and the years melted away; once again she was twenty-two and putty in his hands. Oh Lord.

This is it. What she’d missed…

Stop it Eth! This is not you!

He’s married!

That particular thought seemed to bring her back to her senses and she pulled away violently and raised her hand to hit him. This time he caught her in time. He gripped her hands firmly.

“Don’t pretend this was all me, Thelia, he breathed down her neck. “You wanted it as much as I did.”

“You tricked me!” she yelled.

“Tell me you didn’t enjoy that. That you haven’t missed it, missed us.”

She couldn’t look at him; her face was awash with shame.

Arrogant bastard. Lord, no. I’ve disappointed you.

“Ethel…” he held on to her hand.

She didn’t reply instead she withdrew her hand and began fumbling in her purse for her house keys, willing away the tears that were threatening to pour.

“Ethel please, just one last time,” he pleaded, “I’ve missed you so much.”

“Listen to me, Charles. I might have said you…you were like a drug in my system but…even drug addicts get cured. And I am cured, so get the hell out of my life.” With that she found her keys and stumbled into her apartment with her last shred of dignity, banging the door firmly behind her.

No! No! No!

How had this happened? She sank to her knees, sobbing.

I’m so sorry Lord. I disappointed you.

“Ethel please let me in. Let’s talk,” he obviously wasn’t taking no for an answer.

Her body heaved in sobs. This couldn’t be happening. She’d promised herself that nothing would happen.

And then she’d let him kiss her!

You weren’t so immobile yourself, madam.

This dinner was a bad idea. She should’ve known that from the start. She wasn’t ready to face Charles again.

You haven’t changed one bit, Thelia. Beneath all the churchiness, you’re still the adventurous bad girl.

The voices were back; the accusing ones and the soothing ones.

“I’m leaving Thelia, but I’ll be back,” he’d obviously given up.

Why? Why won’t he let her be? He’d left her once. Why had he returned to make her life miserable?

************

For the first time in a long time, Ethel was distracted during service that evening. First, she hadn’t spoken to Amaka all day in school, not because she hadn’t wanted to but because she was too ashamed to. Her actions of the previous day still hung over her head, accusing her. And it seemed Amaka was pissed at her too because she said nothing to her beyond exchanging pleasantries.

Teaching the students had done little in lifting her dark mood. Until she got a call from her mother that afternoon. Since she’d turned sixteen, her conversations with her mother had reduced to monosyllables.

“Hello ma,”

“Eno, how are you?” whenever Mum used her name at all, it was her native name.

“Fine.” Nothing else, just fine. Anything else would be weird. Ethel pretended she wasn’t interested in her mum’s life because she was afraid what she’d find out.

“Eh…I’m in Abuja. I came in yesterday and I…I wanted to…er…tell you,” she stammered.

“Okay. Thanks for telling me,” Ethel hesitated. “And welcome to Abuja.”

“Thank you.”

There was awkward silence from both ends of the line. It was always like this, they had nothing to say to each other.

“Ma, I have to…”

“Come and see me please…I…”

Oh please don’t say you miss me.

“I’m…alone,” she completed.

What does that mean, Mum? You’re with no male guest?

“I’m busy Mum. Maybe one of these days when I’m free. Bye for now,” Ethel knew she sounded cold but what was she to do? Her relationship with her mother had been damaged a long time ago; her loathing for the woman she called mum had grown as she grew older. Could it be fixed now?

She hung up feeling as she always did after speaking to her mum. Choked. It seemed like her chest would burst with the bitterness she felt.

She blamed her for everything that had gone wrong in her life. Especially Charles. Maybe if her mum had taught her that love was something to embrace rather than run from, she wouldn’t have gotten involved with Charles.

Thus was her mood when she got to church later that evening. It seemed as though fate had ganged up on her to make her life miserable again.

She came to church intending to bury her pain and guilt and just as she was beginning to feel better, halfway during Pastor Tim’s sermon, she felt it. The charge. The feeling that someone was watching her closely. Too closely.

She turned and searched the seated crowd with her eyes. At first she didn’t see him. Until she did a second sweep with her eyes.

He was there, seated at the back between two men, grinning at her and looking incredibly ravishing. Her pulse quickened as she turned away.

It was Charles.

How on earth was she expected to concentrate on Pastor Tim’s sermon now knowing that Charles was somewhere behind her? And she was sure everyone would know from one look at her, that she’d kissed him the previous day! And what about Pastor Tim? What if the Holy Spirit tells him what she did? Yes, He was capable of that. After all, He’d told Peter what Ananias and Sapphira had done.

Oh Lord no.

And yet the memory of the kiss seemed to be burned in her head. It completely blocked out the on-going sermon and instead ignited her carnal thoughts.

Father forgive me, for I know not what…

“…shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!” Pastor Tim’s voice reverberated.

A drug in my system. A drug in my system I can’t get rid of…

“…brethren, your body is the temple of God.”

Crazy, you’re going crazy Ethel. Stop thinking about that man, dammit!

But she couldn’t. Her head was abuzz with sensuous memories. Memories of the past she chose never to speak about.

“Sister Ethel,” the voice, an urgent whisper brought her back to the present.

She looked up, into the face of her assistant Welfare director- Mrs Ohaneze.

“Service is almost over, should I serve Pastor’s drinks?” she asked.

Service? Almost over? She blinked.

“Yes, yes, yes please do. Thank you,” her smile was polite but apprehensive. Service was almost over, she had to make a run for it as soon as the benediction was shared. The last thing she needed now was another confrontation with Charles.

Of course, she wasn’t to be that lucky because as soon as service ended and she began making her way to the exit, someone tugged at her arm.

“Siss…sterr Ethel, not so fast,” the mockery in his voice was evident.

Ethel froze. There was no escaping now. She turned, imagining that she’d already gone several shades of red with embarrassment.

“Leave me alone,” she said in an urgent whisper, “don’t tell me you came to church for a booty call.”

“Only your booty interests me Thelia,” he grinned, “what do you say we get out of here and finish what we started yesterday?”

Ethel’s hand flew to her mouth in surprise. She sneaked a quick look around, hoping that no one had heard their conversation. Lord, this was a nightmare! Charles was becoming a pain in the butt.

“You should go and see Pastor, your soul needs salvation. Honestly I wonder how you two are brothers,” she glared at him.

He tilted his head back and laughed, he was obviously enjoying her discomfort.

“Step-brothers, actually. Perhaps we should take this conversation elsewhere, Thelia.”

“Yes. Absolutely. Let’s take it back to the hotel where you and your wife are staying!!” she hissed at him.

He froze for a split second giving room for Ethel’s savior to show up. Amaka.

“Hey Eth, what’s up?” Amaka slid in smoothly beside Ethel, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Er…I…”

“Who’s this? A new brother in church? Hello brother, my name is Amaka,” she held out her hand with a smile.

Charles looked at Amaka, exasperated and had no choice but to stretch out his hands to accept hers.

“This is Charles. Charles Umoh,” Ethel said, her eyes lowered, wondering if Amaka would make the connection.

“Interesting,” apparently she had.

Ethel bit her lower lip in nervously. Her life as she knew it had just come crumbling and it was up to her to face the consequences.

“You know what? We need to talk Eth so I’ll just wait here while you say goodbye to Brother Charles here, okay?” there was an emphasis on the ‘brother’.

Ethel was visibly trembling as she nodded. Amaka wanted to talk to her! She wasn’t sure if she could face her. Especially not now.

She glanced at her friend and the stern look on her face told her she meant business this time. Quickly she turned to Charles and beckoned him to follow her.

Her nervousness caused her to be clumsy and her purse fell to the ground and spilled open, scattering its contents.

“Crap,” she murmured as she bent to pick it. Could this day get any worse?

“I’ll do it. You go on,” Amaka offered.

She needed Charles far away as fast as possible so she smiled gratefully at Amaka and walked Charles to the door.

“How did you know about my…wife?”

“The same way she knew about me. You’re a shameless liar. Don’t come looking for me again,” with that she left him staring agape after her.

When she returned to Amaka she immediately knew something was wrong. Perhaps she was still angry.

“Thank you Amy but I have to go home. I’ve got an early day tomorrow,” she spoke fast, hoping Amaka would ask no questions.

“We have to talk,” Amaka replied in a grave voice.

“Not tonight please,”

“Yes, tonight,” she waved an envelope in front of her, “about this.”

It was the envelope Charles’ wife had given her the previous day. She’d forgotten it in her purse!

She snatched it from Amaka’s hand and tucked it away. “You had no right to pry.”

There was no apology as Amaka asked, “have you ever had an abortion?”

“What??”

“I think we are going to have that talk after all. Now.”

 

To be continued next week…

By Mimi Adebayo

 

 

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UNFORGIVEN V

…continued from Unforgiven IV

unforgiven

Charles wasn’t going to stop hounding her. He was the kind of man that got what he wanted and right now he wanted her. The thought of that managed to thrill her and scare her at the same time.

Although it was difficult, she decided to ignore his text and return to class. Odd, that even while she spoke to her students, her mind wandered to Charles.

She’d broken her ultimate rule with the wrong man.

And yet, as much as she regretted what had happened with Charles, she found she still cherished what they’d had. It had been love, even if the worst kind. Even if it had been one-sided.

Which is why she knew she wasn’t ready to tell Amaka about Charles. Not just yet.

As soon as school was over, Ethel didn’t bother waiting around for Amaka because she knew there was no way Amaka would let her go without finishing her story. Yes, she was persistent like that.

And when her cell rang later that day as she made lunch, she knew without a doubt that it was Amaka.

She was wrong. The caller ID showed a strange number.

“Hello?”

“Have dinner with me tonight please.”

She didn’t have to think twice to know who was speaking. Charles.

“How did you get my number?” she asked.

“Oh come on Thelia, you know me. That’s not what’s important here. Please have dinner with me.”

His voice disarmed her whenever he begged, even if for a little bit. He spoke with that low drawl that quickened her pulse whenever she listened to him. It was one of the things that had endeared her to him.

“Why?” she asked. Every second spent on the phone with him weakened her defences in a way that scared her. She didn’t want to fall back into that phase of her life where all she’d thought about was him.

“Because I miss you.”

And I miss you too. In a stupid way. She snorted, “No, Charles. I told you nothing is going to happen between us.”

“Then why are you afraid of having dinner with me? C’mon, it’s just dinner.”

Dining with the devil eh? A voice taunted her.

“We didn’t have a chance to say our formal goodbyes, remember? Let’s just treat this as…a way of getting…closure,” he continued.

You can’t actually be considering this, Ethel.

“If we didn’t have a chance to say goodbye Charles, that was the choice you made,” she said, slowly.

Maybe this would be good. Think of it as closure, Ethel. Get this man out of your heart and head once and for all.

“Give me a chance to make up for it. Let me treat you like the queen you are. Let me make it up to you.”

It wasn’t the sweetness of his words that made her say yes to a date later that night; it was the fact that she’d dreamed of this moment almost every day for the past three years.

She’d often wondered what she’d do if she saw him again; if he came to ask for her forgiveness. And now that time had come. What exactly did she want? A harmless dinner with her former lover?

Bad idea, Ethel. The voice reprimanded. Do not be unequally yoked, Ethel.

No one is doing any yoking here. It’s just dinner.

With the man who sent you to hell and back.

Oh Lord, what now? She deliberated; maybe she should call Amaka and ask advice.

After playing hooky today? I don’t think so.

She glanced at her clock. Two minutes past four. Charles said he’d pick her up by seven pm so she had barely three hours to make up her mind and get ready.

Now what would she wear? Charles liked short and skimpy and before he’d ended their relationship, her wardrobe – which he had picked out – was made up of short skirts or gowns.

Short and skimpy was definitely out of it now. She’d long since stopped dressing to please Charles; now, she’d dress to please her Creator.

Maybe you should have thought about that before you agreed to this date in the first place.

Three hours later, she was still unsure what to wear when the doorbell rang.

Dammit. She’d forgotten the man was a stickler to time.

Thankfully, she’d left the door unlocked.

“Come in! It’s open!” she struggled into a shimmering blue gown. “I’ll be right there, Charles.”

She half expected him to walk into her bedroom. Charles was well known for such grand intrusive gestures. It shamed her to think that the thought of him walking in on her sent tiny unexpected shivers down her spine.

This has to stop. He is a married man! And he’s wrong for you! And he’s Charles!

Ten minutes later, she checked herself in the mirror and smiled.

This was good. Nothing extravagant. Just the right amount of make-up. Nothing to make him think she was going overboard for him. Her knee-length ball gown gave away no curves, the right thing for the occasion. Nothing to give Charles ideas.

Yes. I’m ready.

She slid into her black stilettos and stepped out into the living room, a little nervous.

“Sorry to have kept you waiting, Charles,” she said, emerging fully into the parlor.

“You didn’t at all.”

Ethel froze. That wasn’t Charles. It was some woman.

“Hello Ethel,” the woman rose to her feet.

“Who are you?”

“Won’t you say hello to me at least?”

Ethel froze in her tracks; the woman looked disturbingly familiar but Ethel couldn’t place where she’d seen her before. She looked to be in her fifties, everything about her was well-coiffed and in-place.

“Who are you?” she asked again.

“Mrs Felicia Umoh.”

“Who?” Something about her name made Ethel pause.

“Wow. I’m nothing more than a statistic to you, right? Now that hurts. Well, let me enlighten you…my husband would be a little late for your date tonight. I made sure of it,” her eyes turned to steel.

And then it clicked. She was Charles’ wife.

Oh my God.

 

 

to be continued next week…

 

by Mimi Adebayo