The Wounded Soldier

wounded soldier02

Paul felt an arm lift his shoulder, and another beneath his feet. He knew he was slipping in and out of consciousness; as a med student, he knew the theory but had never experienced it. Until now.

He tried to move, to stand up, to ask what was happening to him, but all his efforts were in vain.

Oh God what is happening to me, Paul tried to say. Blood sputtered from his mouth, his lips moved but no sound came out. All around him everything was getting dark and darker still. He tried to raise his left arm, but the pain was unbearable. Must be broken.

He tried to recall. There had been an explosion, a deafening one. That’s exactly when everything became dark. He tried to remember where he was and what must have caused the explosion but his memory was hazy.

People were talking all around him, “buddy … hold on …”, “hey … pull through …”, “hang on … c’mon bro …”

What is happening? Who are you? Where am I? He tried to ask all at the same time. Instead, he spit more blood.

Paul forced his eyes open; the surrounding light dazzled his eyes. He shut it immediately, and tried again after a few moments. With little effort, he began to recognize his surroundings. It was a village. And a war was on.

Oh God, please help, he prayed. Just like his Sunday school teacher had taught him all those years ago. At first his mum forced him to go but as time passed, he had started enjoying it. He still remembered the look on his mom’s face the evening he sauntered in grinning from ear to ear. The puzzled look on her face transformed to a radiating smile when he announced, “I just gave my life to Christ”. That was years ago, and remembering it now made him smile.

A sudden calm settled over him. He had given his life to a loving saviour, so even though he was in pain, Paul knew that he was in good hands. That assurance lulled him into a deep sleep.

The ‘deep’ sleep lasted all of two minutes before a jolt woke him again. Groggy with pain, Paul tilted leftward where a face hovered over him.

He recognized the face – Jack Rover. They were roommates and best friends right from their first year in the med school. In fact, Jack was the reason Paul chose to join the medical department of the defence academy. And together, they had opted for advanced military training so they could provide medical care on the war front.

Paul tried to speak, to ask Jack what happened. But his head protested. Jack smiled and extended a hand to soothe his chest. Paul couldn’t hear his words over all the noise but he saw the promise in his pal’s eyes: you will be fine.

Paul turned to his other side and saw more faces he recognized. He was on a stretcher being carried towards a chopper with whizzing blades. They walked fast, in spurts; severally, they stopped in a crouch behind a shrub or a shed, and crawled out again moments later. They were trying to avoid being detected. At the same time, they frequently glanced down at him with faces full of concern. They wanted to ensure their movement wasn’t causing him much pain.

A sludge of memories hit Paul, and he quickly shut his eyes as it all came back to him. The men – Jim, Cross, Jitsu and Dele; all of them infantry assigned to that regiment for a peace-keeping mission in Iraq.

They had been in Baghdad for three months, maintaining the order. That morning they had received report of an attack on a squadron in the neighbouring town of Karbala, and had set out immediately in a convoy of tanks, gun trucks and a medical Landrover van. But just as they were entering Karbala, an enemy jet fighter leaving Baghdad spotted them and dropped a ballistic missile. It missed them by a few feet, hitting a transmission pole instead. The pole fell on the medical van sending it somersaulting into a sandy ditch by the roadside. Paul was in the passenger seat.

Pain jolted him back to reality. Just then, Paul saw a figure that looked like … no, it was him. Col. Sanders. Driven by habit, Paul tried to lift his arm in a salute but pain crippled him and he yelped. The colonel touched his shoulder very lightly – at ease, soldier – the unmistakable glint of kindness in his eyes. The colonel was carrying him too? Paul looked around again, slowly.

Though his face stayed as stern as it did when he was supervising a parade, Col. Sanders indeed held on tight to one end of the stretcher Paul was on. How on earth could Col. Sanders suspend a mission to care for a wounded soldier?

Paul was puzzled.

Then he remembered. It was the colonel who taught them never to leave a wounded soldier behind. “No matter what, never leave a wounded soldier behind” Col. Sanders had made them yell it over and over again on their last day of training in Denver.

Impressive, Paul thought, that even the almighty Col. Sanders walked his talk. In fact, it was not just impressive, it was humiliating.

Guilt washed over Paul as he remembered his youth pastor referring to Christians as soldiers. While speaking to them from the second book of Timothy, the pastor had highlighted soldierly attributes that should be possessed by young Christians, like discipline, agility, sacrifice, etc. But he hadn’t said anything about wounded soldiers.

Paul remembered that time Sister Judy got pregnant, how he had quickly condemned her in his mind and never cared to visit her even after she delivered. He hadn’t seen her in church for months, but he never even asked about her. He also remembered when his fiancée told him of a church member that lived on her street who was dating two guys. They had laughed at her impending doom in his apartment that evening and written her off.

A warm tear escaped Paul’s shut eyelids. The more he remembered scores of other wounded soldiers he had left behind, the more freely the tears flowed.

Thoroughly ashamed, he cried out to God for mercy. With quivering soundless lips he prayed, “Lord Jesus, as long as I am a soldier in your army, I promise never to leave a wounded soldier behind again”.

And he drifted off to a deeper sleep.


By Toby Nwazor

Toby Nwazor

Toby Nwazor is a freelance writer, public speaker and personal development blogger. He is the co-founder of www.tobyandkc.com where he shares tips for living a more productive life. And he thoroughly believes in networking.

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UNFORGIVEN – THE END

unforgiven

The dial tone came on as Ethel anticipated and she waited to hear her voice. Sheila. A name that would have been perfect for her daughter.

“Hi Daddy!” Sheila’s voice was young and strong.

“Hi Sheila. This isn’t your…daddy. This is…”

“Please no. I beg you. Don’t do this, please,” Charles was begging, unashamed.

It was the first time Ethel was seeing Charles express so much emotion over someone that wasn’t him and it touched somewhere in her unexpectedly. Why?

“Hello? Hello? Who is this?”

“I…I think I better let you talk to your father,” Ethel glanced at him, “he has a confession to make.”

“What? Daddy?”

Ethel held the phone towards Charles. “Either you do it or I do. I think she’d be able to take it if it comes from you, though. Your choice, honey”

“Please…I’ll…do…it. Just please, let me go,” he was bleeding less now, although the sheet beneath him was bloody.

“Tell her everything.”

And he did. Every sordid detail. There were times Ethel could sense that he wanted to stop talking, or even add a white lie but one look at her determined face changed his mind. He wept as he spoke; a captive of his own immoral craving.

As she held the phone to his ears listening to him confess, she waited for the feeling of relief, of fulfillment. She waited for the pain that hung in her heart like a road block to subside.

It will come, Ethel. Be patient.

She knew when he was done talking because he let out a loud wail that pierced the air. Sheila had hung up the phone on him.

He didn’t say a word; he just lay there sobbing.

“You want to know how I felt when I found out that you’d taken away what I treasured?” she asked. “Exactly like this. Now you will know a little of the pain I felt. Both physical and emotional.” She raised the knife again ready to deform him some more.

“Ethel! No!”

Her name rang out from somewhere behind her; she paused, her hands poised in the air.

“Ethel, drop it. Put down the knife now” It was Amaka.

“Why?”

“Because you don’t heal by hurting someone else. It’s not going to work. You’ll only be opening a new wound.”

“Don’t spin me those clichés, Amaka. What do you know? You’ve not been through what I have,” she didn’t lower the knife, neither did she look back. “You should stay away from me.”

“Well, if you want him, you’ll have to go through me first,” with that Amaka rushed forward and wedged herself between Ethel and Charles.

“Get away from him, Amaka”

“You first”

“What are you?” Ethel asked, exasperated.

“Your conscience. A voice of reasoning. Listen to me Eth, if you do this, God will forgive you alright but you…you will never forgive yourself.”

“Let her kill me. I have nothing…else to lose,” Charles whimpered.

“Don’t listen to him, Eth. You don’t need this nightmare, you don’t need more problems.”

“But…how do I stop hurting? How do I go on living, knowing what I know? How?” Ethel couldn’t stop the tears that were flowing from her eyes.

“You can’t do it on your own, honey. God is here to help and so am I. Put down the knife, sweetie, please,”

Ethel lowered her hand.

“I can’t live with it. I just can’t,”

“Crazy bitch! Kill me! Kill me!” Charles screamed.

Ethel stood still for a split second and then suddenly she crumpled to the floor.

“Ethel? Eth?” Amaka dashed to her side, “Jesus Christ. She stabbed herself! Ma! She’s bleeding! We need to get her to a hospital now!”

Ethel’s mother materialized from where she’d been hiding and rushed to her daughter’s side.

“Eno! Eno ooh! Jesus ooh!”

“That won’t help, let’s get her to the car and you drive her to the hospital, okay?”

The blood was gushing out from the knife wound and Ethel’s head lolled from side to side as she fought with consciousness.

Both women heaved Ethel across the house to Amaka’s waiting car with Ethel’s mother muttering ‘blood of Jesus’ repeatedly.

“Take the car; I have to go attend to that man. Take her to the Specialist hospital close by. I’ll join you in a few minutes.”

Ethel’s mother was weeping as she took the keys from Amaka.

“Don’t worry, ma. I’ll be praying for her.”

With that Amaka returned to the house to set about freeing Charles.

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

 

The day Ethel was discharged from the hospital, her mother was there helping her along; little wonder since Ethel’s bones seemed to be threatening to burst out of her skin. She was weak and had lost a generous amount of weight.

Her survival was a testimony Amaka couldn’t stop sharing. She told how Ethel had been in the theatre for thirteen hours because the knife wound had been fatal and deeper than expected. It was obvious that she’d intended to kill herself.

Even after the surgery, the doctors had kept her heavily sedated because she was still fragile. It wasn’t until four days later that she opened her eyes and even then she kept slipping in and out of consciousness. The doctor who kept checking on her told Amaka that Ethel’s problem was more psychological than physical. She seemed to have lost the will to live and if that was the case, no amount of surgery could save her.

For the first time since it all began, Amaka cried for her friend. She knelt by the bed and broke down in tears. She sat beside her all day and talked to her even though it didn’t seem like she could hear and then she told Pastor Tim everything.

When she finally revitalized her will to live, her mother was on hand to hire a personal therapist for Ethel against her will.

“I almost killed him. What does that make me? A monster, yes. I am a terrible, terrible person. Why should I live?” Ethel often told the therapist.

“But you didn’t.”

“I wanted to. I would have, I know.”

“Why?”

“Because I wanted vengeance. I wanted to stop the pain.”

“How do you feel now?”

“Like a monster. I know everyone thinks I’m crazy. Am I?”

“What do you think?”

“I asked you a question and you are asking me back. Isn’t it your job to tell me whether I am crazy or not?” she sighed. “Go away. I’m tired.”

And so the sessions continued. Sometimes Ethel was calm and reasonable, at other times she was irrational and lashed out unnecessarily. She also hated the fact that her mother moved in with her temporarily.

“Don’t you get it, Amaka! She’s still the same person she was years ago! She caused this!” she screamed one day.

“I think it’s time you stopped playing the blame game. Your mother has nothing to do with what is happening to you now. This is you, Eth. Until you accept that, you will never truly be free.”

“You’re being harsh. You’re taking her side.”

“No. I’m telling you the truth. I love you Eth but I can’t bear to see you like this. You can’t forgive your mother, how do you expect to forgive yourself?”

“I feel dirty. I feel like I can’t talk to God anymore…after everything I did.”

“Sweetie, that’s where you’re wrong, Jesus is here to intercede for us. Because of Jesus you can approach God’s throne without fear or guilt. He still loves you as much as He did when you first accepted Him.”

The words brought tears to her eyes and Ethel marveled how Amaka’s perceptive words usually did more for her than her sessions with the therapist.

It was four months after her suicide attempt that Amaka dropped the bombshell. She was doing better already; had regained her former weight and returned to her job and also the church, her sessions still continued but she was coping better with them and with her mother.

“I have something to tell you, Eth.” Amaka’s face looked grave which was strange, especially since she had just finished teaching her kids.

“Oh no. What is it now?”

“Pastor Tim just told me. You might want to sit down for this.”

“What is it? Spill it.”

“It’s Charles. He was involved in an accident last night. They said he was drunk and driving when he collided with a tree.”

“Oh my God! No! Is he okay?”

Amaka took a deep breath, “by the time they found him he was dead. He suffered a brain hemorrhage.”

“Oh…no…no…no.”

“I’m sorry dear,” Amaka opened her arms and embraced her.

Ethel felt the walls closing in on her. Why did this have to happen just when she was finding peace with herself and God? Charles was dead because of her!

The guilt came flooding in like before.

“When is the funeral?” she asked quietly.

“This weekend. What, you want to go?”

“I have to. I don’t know why but I have to. This is my entire fault. He’s dead because of me,” she sniffed.

“Stop it Eth. This has nothing to do with you. You’ve paid your dues, hon. Attend the funeral if you’re up for it but not because you feel guilty.”

Ethel leaned forward and hugged Amaka again, smiling through her tears.

“You’re the absolute best. Thank God I met you,” she said.

“Same here, hon. But I need to know…how are you doing? How do you feel?”

“I had a dream last night. I think I saw angels…then one of them smiled at me and said, ‘you’re forgiven’. I woke up feeling absolutely refreshed. I even had a real conversation with my mother. So I think, I’m not where I’m supposed to be yet but I’m not where I am months ago. I actually feel forgiven.”

“Good. Because you are.”

“You think life will ever return to normal for me, Amy?”

“Better than normal, Eth. You have a blank page in front of you…write in it.”

Ethel beamed at her friend. Those were the best words she’d heard in a long while.

 

THE END.

 

 by Mimi Adebayo

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The ride has been a pleasure for me, the writer; thanks to you, my faithful readers and to Chisom for featuring me. It’s been a pleasure writing this series knowing I’d have y’all here waiting to read. I couldn’t have asked for better.

                Now I know the Charles and Ethel saga might not have ended as you wanted or expected it to, but this is how my Muse led me; my Muse being God Almighty. Life has never been a bed of roses (clichés, I know), the question is how do you handle the thorns, the things that deter you? This is a story of thorns and road bumps in the journey of life; I hope that among other things you were able to learn something remarkable from it.

                I appreciate those who read and took the extra step to comment. Wow! Lovely people y’all are. As for the silent readers…hehehehe, there is God in everything we’re doing. I assure you this isn’t the last you’ve heard from me. I hope to always see you on here. And please endeavor to mark the end of the series by dropping a comment no matter how short or tacky.

Lots of love, everyone. Ciao!

– Mimi A.

               

 

UNFORGIVEN XI

…continued from UNFORGIVEN X

unforgiven

She needed to convince him that she was for real. She gave him a demure smile as she let him in; he perused her body with hungry lust and didn’t say a word as he made a dive for her and began to kiss her.

And for the first time ever, Ethel felt nauseous. That was when it dawned on her that his hold over her was broken. She could never let him touch her again.

“Easy, champion,” she chided as she pulled away, not wanting to show resistance.

“God, you look so sexy!” he mumbled, running his hand over her breasts.

She stiffened in disgust which he mistook for desire because with one hand he drew her to him, nuzzling.

“Look, I have something special planned for you. Something you’d like,” she winked at him, pecking him lightly on the lips.

“What made you change your mind, Thelia?” he asked, breathing in the scent of her skin. Good thing she’d dabbed perfume on her body before he arrived.

“I realised how much I missed you,” she purred. “Besides if we do this, you stop hounding me, so come…follow me.”

“I want you here. Let’s do it here, then we…”

“No,” the single word rang out like a threat. Ethel felt her façade begin to slip. “I mean…I want you to see what I had in mind. It’s exactly what you used to like.”

Fall for it, you idiot!

“Can’t we do that later? You’re so hot I think I’m gonna burst in my pants,” he groaned, pressing her to himself.

By all means, do.

“No, it has to be my way, honey. I promise you’ll like it. I haven’t forgotten how to take care of you; she disentangled from him and began leading him to the bedroom.

“This better be good. I could eat you, you know,” his eyes were burning with a passion she’d once shared but not anymore.

He followed her this time, touching her at every opportunity he got.

The cuffs were in plain sight and caught his eyes like she knew they would. He stared at her like a puppy that’d just been told he could have the largest bone.

“Really? That’s what you have in mind? To…play?” his eyes shone.

“Yes. I’ve missed it,” she said, casually picking up the cuffs.

“How do you want it? You want to…should I cuff you?”

“I was thinking I could cuff you first. Later, you can do me,” this was the part she needed to really put her acting skills to practice.

Charles might be horny but he wasn’t stupid. Any false step and he might smell a trap.

“Wow. You sure are in the mood. Didn’t think getting you into bed would be this…” he smirked.

He’d wanted to say ‘easy’. She could bet her last breath on it.

“Get into bed Charlie. It’s play time,” that was the phrase they used whenever they wanted to go kinky.

He obeyed, pausing for a second to unzip his fly.

Her revenge was so close she could taste it. She didn’t realise she was sweating as she cuffed his hands to the bedposts.

“What next?”

“I will take off your pants and do with you as I please,” she promptly replied.

He nodded.

And take off his pants she did. She stripped him to the very last until she bared his bulk. Looking at it, she recalled times that she’d lived for the pleasure it brought her. Not today. Not anymore.

Smiling, she walked over to her wardrobe and took out her camera.

“What…what are you doing?” he asked as he saw the camera trained on him.

“I want to see the look on your face as I strip you of the thing that makes you a man,” she spoke in a cold voice.

“What? What is this? What are you talking about? Put away the camera Ethel. This wasn’t the plan. No tapes…”

“Shut up! Shut up you murderer! You thought you would get away with it, right? You thought you’d kill my babies and go scot free?”

“What? What is this…God, what is this?” he was beginning to shake. This wasn’t just kinky sex anymore, he gathered. “Please, for God’s sake just put away the damn camera and let’s talk about this. And please uncuff me.”

“You didn’t think about God when you took away my babies. You didn’t think about me when you drugged me time and time again, you bastard! You know what? Say cheese to the camera and let’s catch your pretty face. We will show this to your precious daughters when you’re gone.”

“Ethel please, please don’t do this. Please let’s talk about this!”

“Yes, beg me. Cry. I wanna see it,” she grinned as she clicked away on the camera.

He wasn’t crying yet but she was pretty sure he soon would. She went to her wardrobe again and this time took out the kitchen knife.

“See, isn’t it beautiful?”

“Blood of Jesus!”

“His blood didn’t save you before. It won’t now. Any last words, honey?” she stroked the shiny blade with an insane glint in her eyes.

“You’re mad. Ethel you’re not well. You want to kill me? You will go to hell! You will go to prison! Ethel, think about it! Are you ready to have my blood on your hands?”

“How did you live with the blood of our babies on your hands all these years?”

“I am sorry! I didn’t mean to! Please! It was…”

“Don’t you dare blame the devil for this! This was you!”

“Forgive please!” he was blubbering now as he struggled to move, to cover his nakedness.

His erection was still there. The treacherous thing hadn’t given up even at the sight of the knife.

“I want you to call your daughters and tell them everything.”

“What? I can’t do that! You will have to kill me first!” he spat.

“Watch me,” she moved closer to him and lashed out with the knife.

It was his face she aimed for. That handsome face that had charmed so many a woman. She dragged the knife deftly over his face watching the blood ooze out with satisfaction as he twisted from side to side.

“Please. No…please…” he was crying now and bleeding. A bad combination as the salty tears fell into the open cut.

“Will you call them now?” she asked again.

“I…can’t. They’re my life. Please…don’t…do…this. God, no.”

“Why am I asking? I can easily get your phone and send the pictures to your precious daughters. That would be good huh?” she slashed his face again, anger boiling within her.

This man that’d damaged her! He deserved this!

“Nooo!” he screamed.

“Then make the call. Or I go to your balls. How would you feel if I cut that off, huh?”

“Jesus Christ!” he was weeping profusely now, tired of struggling.

“Make the call,” she moved away and began searching the pockets of his discarded trouser.

“Bingo!” she smiled, waving it in the air, “Now, what’s the name of the older one? And don’t mess with me Charlie. I still have my friend here,” she used the knife to poke his bulk.

“Please forgive me. Don’t do this. Please…I will do anything.”

“Oh. Can you bring back my babies? Or make me pregnant again? The name, Charlie! Don’t waste my time!”

“Sh…Sh..Sheila. Please don’t.”

“Ah Sheila. What a beautiful name. It would’ve been lovely for our daughter, don’t you think?”

“N…No…I mean…Y…Yes,”

“Why, Charles? Why did you do it? Wasn’t I good enough?” she couldn’t hold back her tears any longer.

“I’m sorry. Please forgive me. You…you were the best thing that happened to me…I…”

“Don’t. Don’t lie any more. It would only make your situation worse. Besides we have a phone call to make to Sheila honey.”

She punched in the letters and the name popped up.

And then she dialled.

to be continued next week…

by Mimi Adebayo

 

UNFORGIVEN X

…continued from UNFORGIVEN IX

unforgiven

“What does this mean? Why would she have written this report? Are you saying she…” the import of what he was about to imply hit Ethel with a wave and she stumbled.

“Eth, you okay?” Amaka asked.

“No. No I’m not. That bastard had the guts to take me to the hospital his wife worked in! And what is this about an induced abortion?” the picture was coming together in her head slowly.

“Er…I don’t want to make assumptions but it seems you ingested a fair amount of Mizoprostol during your pregnancy which eventually caused the loss of your baby.”

“Are you saying my miscarriage was deliberate? I don’t understand, tell me!” Ethel was near hysterical.

“Calm down Eth. Tell me, did you take any medication at any point during your pregnancy?”

“No, I don’t think so. I…wait. Yes. Both times Charles gave me some prescriptions which he said…he’d gotten from his doctor…he said he was…taking care of me…” her voice shook as the tears pooled in her eyes.

“Eth, did you…check what the medication was? Did you even ask?” Amaka’s voice was soft.

“I trusted him! He said it would make me feel better. Take away the morning sickness…” she sank to her knees, hugging herself. “He lied…he lied…he killed my babies…my babies…no…”

Amaka knelt beside her and put her arms around her; not knowing what else to say to comfort her friend.

“He lied… murderer. My babies…my babies…”

“We aren’t sure yet Eth, it might have been something else,” even as she said it, Amaka knew it was a lie. Charles was the culprit and he’d used his wife to cover up his crime.

“No! No!” Ethel thrashed around, hysterical. “No, my babies!”

Tayo rushed into the kitchen, his eyes wide in alarm.

“Babe, what is it?” he asked as he surveyed the scene before him.

“Tell you later hon. Please help me get her to bed. She’s just had a bad shock and I don’t think she can stand; please babe.”

They both helped Ethel to her feet and dragged her limp figure to the spare bedroom.

None of them could tell what was running through Ethel’s mind because her eyes took on a glazed look as they lay her on the bed. She whimpered between intervals calling out to her babies.

Amaka was torn apart as she watched her friend. She wished she could help but knew that this was a battle Ethel needed to fight alone. She’d been through a lot; that much Amaka had figured out over the past few days.

Suddenly she got an idea; she picked up Ethel’s purse and fished out her phone. She scrolled through it, found what she wanted and made the call.

*******

Sleep evaded her like a thief on the prowl but she didn’t notice. Her mind seemed both dead and alive at the same time. The voices were louder and more frequent as she lay on the bed in a foetal position.

He killed them. My babies!

He saved you from being like your mother!

You would’ve been a terrible mother; the worst.

He never even gave me the chance!

You didn’t deserve one.

And as she lay on the bed struggling with her thoughts, her head began to replay the events of the years before.

Charles’ transformation from the angry boyfriend to an overly caring father-to-be, his constant waiting on her hand and foot. The insistence to take her to his hospital when she first began experiencing her second miscarriage.

It all made sense now; he’d planned it, carefully and without any mistakes. He’d cold heartedly taken away her babies. He hadn’t wanted to upset his wonderful, picture-perfect family so he’d taken away hers.

Damn him!

Will God punish him? Will He make him suffer like she had suffered, like she was, even now?

Or will he live life as usual? Leaving her scarred?

She didn’t notice when the room was bathed in darkness as Amaka left her, neither did she know when she drifted off to sleep with her tear-stained face.

******

When she opened her eyes, it took her some minutes to adjust to the brightness of the room.

“Eno, how are you?”

She jerked at the sound of the voice. Her mother. No one else called her that except her mother. What was she doing here?

She sat up, her head feeling heavy.

“What are you doing here? Who called you? What do you want?” she croaked, apprehensive. The memory of the previous night came flooding.

“Eno, calm down. I heard you were not…feeling too fine and I…” her mother reached out to touch her.

Ethel jerked away with a squeal. “Don’t. Touch. Me.”

“Eno, please…” her pain oozed out of every pore on her body. It was always a difficult thing when a mother was rejected by her child.

“Leave me alone! Get out! I want to be alone! Where’s Amaka! All of you are betrayers! You! Charles! All of you!” she was hysterical now; thrashing about, a near-crazed look in her eyes.

Mum stared at her, her hands spread out in a helpless motion before her.

I don’t need you anymore ma. You were never there when I needed you so get away from me! Ethel screamed aloud in her head.

“Amaka, I want to see Amaka,” she spoke out, “I want my phone.”

“Eno, she went to work. She asked me to stay with you because…she felt you needed help.”

“I don’t need your help. I don’t need anybody’s help! You are a traitor! A prostitute! Don’t you see what you are?”

The slap was unexpected. Ethel couldn’t remember when last her mother had touched her – affectionately or otherwise. She was momentarily stunned.

“Are you mad? Or do you want to be? Nonsense. Don’t ever talk to me like that. I don’t care how sick you are. I gave birth to you and raised you so you better watch your mouth, young lady,” Mum said.

Ethel refused to heed to the tears that threatened to pour, instead she pulled herself up from the bed, picked her purse that lay on the nightstand and made for the door.

“Where are you going, madam?”

She didn’t answer as she stormed out of the room, banging the door behind her.

“Eno! Eno!” Mum called, rushing after her.

“Leave me alone! I hate you!” she screamed as she dashed out of the house and into the street, nearly running into a car.

In her distraught state, she flagged down a cab and jumped in, gave him her address and smiled in satisfaction as he zoomed away, leaving her mother waving frantically at her in the distance.

You’re crazy.

No, I’m not. She deserves it. She’s terrible.

You’re going to hurt yourself.

I can’t be anymore hurt than I am now.

The voices were at it again; louder than ever this time.

“Shut up,” Ethel whispered. She didn’t notice the cab driver glance at her in his mirror.

She rummaged in her purse and took out her phone and dialled.

“Hello Charles. It’s me. Oh, yes. Ethel. I..uh…decided to take you up on your offer. What are you doing right now?” She paused, listening. “Uh…can you come to my house now? I have something special planned for you. Oh yes, I changed my mind. Because I missed you…and I can’t take it anymore. I want to see you…in like, thirty minutes. Uhmmm…yes, yes…okay bye!”

As she hung up, she felt the bile rise in her throat. She was going to see him one last time and give him a present. She’ll make him pay for every tear he caused her to shed. And for her babies he took away.

Pay-back time, Charlie boy.

When the cab driver dropped her off, she rushed to her bedroom to get ready. Charles was going to be here any minute. She opened her box, the one she’d taken with her when she left her mother’s house three years ago. It was the box that Charles had left her when he’d thrown her out. She hadn’t opened the box since she came to Abuja and restarted her life. It brought back bad memories so she had kept it locked away.

Now, as she took out the red lingerie he’d bought her years ago, the tears threatened to pour. This man, who she’d given four years of her life to, had repaid her by taking away her babies. A man she had considered spending the rest of her life with!

The rage gripped her as she thought of the past. She slipped out of her clothes, slid into the lingerie and went in search of the handcuffs.

Charles had liked kinky sex. According to him, he never had that with his wife. So, he’d bought her cuffs and a few other sex toys which she’d kept locked away.

She’d never known she would need it again. Until now.

She stroked the cuffs, smiling at her plan. If God wasn’t going to punish Charles, she was. She wouldn’t wait till the judgment day and the Lake of fire. He deserved punishment now.

Her next stop was the kitchen. She retrieved what she needed from there and went back to the bedroom.

At that point, the doorbell rang. Charles could never resist a booty call.

 

to be continued next week…

by Mimi Adebayo

 

UNFORGIVEN IX

…continued from UNFORGIVEN VIII

unforgiven

She told how she’d met Charles, in a night club on the day she turned twenty-two. Her ‘friends’ had taken her out to celebrate and she and Charles had hit it off almost instantly. He had been wearing his wedding ring that night, which was unusual and yet that was what had thrilled Ethel. She’d long since made up her mind to live the kind of life her Mum did but in a classier way. She didn’t sleep around with every Tom, Dick and Harry who had money, she picked her men. Older, married and damn rich. She didn’t want love so she went with married men. At least those ones had wives to have and to hold; all she did was stroke their egos and satisfy them how she knew.

At the time she met Charles she’d been single. Just ended a relationship with a former lecturer who wasn’t ready to meet her financial needs. Stingy man and not so good looking too!

Charles had been it. Many married men took off their wedding ring when hitting on a girl, not Charles. He’d confidently struck up a conversation with her and eventually asked her to dance. Their first dance had been breathtaking and intense. Their chemistry was instant and standing so close to him had made Ethel feel like she’d explode with longing. And yet they had not touched each other that first night. Not even a kiss. He’d dropped her off at her hostel and requested a date.

“You sure your Missus won’t be mad?” she teased, drunk.

“Definitely not as mad as I am for you,” he’d re-joined.

One date turned into two, then three and finally their fifth date they couldn’t stay off each other anymore. They sat in his car, afraid to touch before the passion exploded beyond control.

“What do we do?” he asked.

“We can’t go to my hostel. We can’t go to your house.”

“A hotel?”

“No. I don’t want that. We have to reach an agreement.”

“I’m listening.”

“What do you want from me? A one-night stand?”

“Sweetheart, we’ve had one too many dates for this to just be a one-night stand.”

“Good. So you want more. And I want more too but not love.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I am not interested in falling in love with you and I want it to be clear. There isn’t going to be any love declarations blah blah blah. You have your life. I have mine. I will not sleep with anyone else while I’m with you, though.”

“Why not?” he was smiling, not believing that they were having this conversation.

“Because unlike some people, I do believe AIDs is real and I want to live awhile. Besides I will be too spent to juggle more than one guy, after I finish with you,” her voice was husky.

“So where’s the catch?”

“I want an apartment where we can meet. Then of course, my upkeep. I am, after all, to be your mistress.”

There and then the deal had been struck. The next time they met it was at Ethel’s new apartment and finally all their desires were sated.

Life with Charles was good. He treated her well; there was no time to fight because they knew nothing about each other to fight about. Everything about them was physical. Until ‘disaster’ struck.

Ethel became pregnant in the twenty-fifth month of their relationship. It was unexpected and obviously unwanted. A lot of blame went around; Charles blamed her, then she blamed him, he blamed her again until they realized they needed a solution.

Ethel didn’t want kids. Not with the kind of childhood she’d grown up with. She wanted a life free of encumbrances. And yet, she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of the thing growing inside her. Fear impeded her. What if she died? She’d heard stories of girls who went in for abortions and never came out the same. They were either dead or damaged. Did she want that?

She told Charles of her fears and eventually decided to have the child and give it up for adoption or something. She was that afraid to be a mother. Charles saw she’d made up her mind and stopped arguing with her and instead became more attentive to her. If she was going to be the mother of his baby, he’d better treat her right, he said.

It didn’t last long though because it was somewhere in her tenth week, she started having cramps and saw blood. She was alone at home that evening and had called Charles who immediately came over and took her to the hospital. The doctors confirmed that she’d lost the pregnancy.

It hadn’t hurt that much then. She consoled herself that it was answered prayers. She didn’t want the child in the first place so God had saved her and the child further grief. Charles spent more time with her as she recovered, treated her like a wife and not a mistress and it was during this time that Ethel realized she’d begun to fall in love with him. She wanted more. She wanted to feel like she actually belonged to someone. To him. She didn’t know whether it was the pregnancy that had made her go soft, all she knew was that she wanted more of him.

The second pregnancy had been planned by her, in the fourth year of their relationship. She’d done everything she could to get Charles to commit more to her; to fall in love with her but it hadn’t seemed to work. And truth was she’d begun to feel the pangs of motherhood. The first pregnancy had opened up something in her that made her rethink everything she’d formerly believed in. And it suddenly dawned on her that she wanted children, a family with the man she loved.

When she got pregnant this time, she waited till her twelfth week to tell Charles. She wanted to be sure that the danger of miscarrying the pregnancy had passed.

Charles froze. He yelled. He couldn’t believe she’d gotten pregnant again after the first mistake, hadn’t she learned anything?

She’d screamed at him too; excuse me for getting pregnant for you! I didn’t know I’d make such a terrible mother!

It’s not about you, woman! Don’t you get it?

Well, it’s my body and my baby and I’m having it. So prepare to be a father!

How far along are you?

Three months.

And you’re just telling me now?

I wanted to make sure it stayed.

How come I didn’t notice?

Because you were too busy admiring my breasts that had grown bigger.

The shouting abated and Ethel tried to convince Charles that this was a good thing. They could start a family together.

Maybe that would’ve happened if the pregnancy had stayed. It hadn’t. A week later, the cramps came in fuller force that brought tears to Ethel’ eyes. For the first time in a long time as she doubled over in the toilet, vomiting and losing blood at the same time, she prayed. She asked God to save her baby. Just this once.

He hadn’t. Like before she ended up in the hospital, worse off than the first time because she was broken in body, soul and spirit.

Charles had dropped her off in the hospital and disappeared. She later found out that he’d paid the bills in advance. Her recovery had been slow and painful and the cramps had continued for a week. At a point Ethel had thought she was going to die.

She cried day and night for her unborn child and eventually she’d been discharged. When she got to her apartment, she found that she’d been locked out and Charles had left her.

It was like another nail in her coffin. Her man had left her without a word. She’d swallowed her pride and gone back to her mum.

That had been the lowest point of her life. She’d fallen into a depression so bad that she’d once attempted suicide.

It was after her suicide attempt that she packed her things and moved to Abuja.

 

“That’s it, Amaka. Charles showed up in church on Sunday and he’s Pastor’s step-brother. I didn’t know what to do,” she concluded.

“That’s not important for now. What I want is to get to the bottom of this,” she waved the paper in front of her. “Who gave you this report?”

“I don’t understand what that means. I recently got a visit from…er…Charles’ wife,” Ethel shrugged.

“Why would she give you this?”

“She said something about it telling me the kind of man Charles is. Tell me what it is.”

“It’s a medical report. Look, it’s dated 2010. Do you remember the name of the hospital Charles took you to when you had your miscarriage?”

“Er…that was when I had my second miscarriage. I can’t remember the hospital’s name.”

“Okay, wait. Look at this. The signature of the doctor that wrote this report. It looks like someone’s name. Does it look familiar?”

Ethel took the paper and stared hard at the signature. It was difficult but eventually she made out the name.

“Felicia…Umoh,” she read out slowly.

It was only when the name had escaped her lips that it dawned on her.

Oh. My. God

 

To be continued next week…

 

By Mimi Adebayo

 

UNFORGIVEN VIII

…continued from Unforgiven VII

unforgiven

“What on earth are you talking about Amaka?” the bewildered expression on Ethel’s face couldn’t be faked.

“You know how you promised to talk about Charles Umoh before you ran out on me that day?” Amaka was glowering at her.

Ethel nodded slowly, “I’m sorry about that Amy. I just…I guess I wasn’t ready then.”

“And now?”

“Now I just want to go home. I’ve had a long day and…what’s this about…an abortion?” the meeting with Charles had left Ethel in a disagreeable mood and really she didn’t want it to rub off on Amaka. Her sense of urgency, the need to get out of church to where she’d feel a bit saner, was increasing.

“I think you’re gonna want to hear this, so tonight you’re coming home with Tayo and I. This hide-and-seek you’ve been playing with me, ends now,” it was the sternest she’d ever seen Amaka and Ethel knew she wasn’t getting off this one easily.

“Amaka, please…”

“No. No pleases tonight Eth. We’re going home to talk about this.”

“I have to go to work tomorrow.”

“Not a problem. I’ll make sure you’re home early enough tomorrow to get set for work. Or better still, if you finish off your story early…we’d get you back home tonight. Capiche?”

“Yes ma,” she let the sarcasm creep into her voice.

“Now I think you’d want to look at what’s in that envelope before we talk. Tayo should be here any minute with baby Sharon.”

If there was anything Ethel hated, it was being put on the spot. She knew however that there was no hiding away from this confrontation with Amaka. She had to come clean about everything. Even yesterday. But would she be bold enough to tell Amaka that if not for the fact that she and Charles had wound up outside last night, she’d have willingly jumped into his arms, his bed again? What did that say of her? She’d been willing to give the devil a chance at her again!

Would Amaka understand that this thing between her and Charles couldn’t be salvaged by time and distance alone? Would she know what it meant to feel such a destructive love for a man? She, after all had the perfect life. Perfect husband and child, everything about her screamed perfection and sometimes it hurt Ethel that she couldn’t have a normal life like Amaka. Those were thoughts she didn’t intend to voice, though.

“Are you reading this at all?” Amaka’s voice jolted her from her reverie.

Ethel hadn’t realised that she’d taken out the paper from the envelope and had spread it before her. Her thoughts had been elsewhere. Now to read this mystery-something; she blinked, looking at the numbers, squiggles and letters. They were written in doctor shorthand. It was obvious it was a medical report. The only thing that made sense to her was her name written in the space provided for ‘Patient’s Name’.

“What’s this? I don’t understand. You know I can’t read a doctor’s report,” she accused.

“Well, good thing I can.” Amaka had done a stint in the nursing school during her earlier years. She retrieved the paper from Ethel’s hand and spread it out.

“Wait, shouldn’t we wait till we get to your house? I’m not comfortable doing this in church,” Ethel looked around nervously. She had a feeling Amaka was about to open up a can of worms and she wanted it done somewhere private. Although the church was almost empty now, Ethel couldn’t help feeling like God’s eyes were staring down at her, huge and disapproving.

“Let me get Tayo and we’ll leave. If that makes you comfortable,” she sighed as she stood. “If you like, disappear again. It is what you’re good at, abi? I’ll take this paper with me, as insurance.”

Ethel didn’t reply. Amaka had never reprimanded her in such a manner before and she knew she had a right to be angry. She’d behaved like a child to the only person she could really call a friend in this town. No matter what, Amaka deserved an audience and no matter how squeamish it made Ethel feel, she knew she couldn’t bail out on her again.

The drive to Amaka’s house was quiet except for bursts of laughter from baby Sharon and the occasional flippant question from Tayo. Ethel didn’t know whether Amaka told her husband everything and frankly, she didn’t intend to find out. Let him judge her! Let him look at her with pity, she didn’t care! None of them knew what she’d gone through so they had a right to their opinion! So she wasn’t perfect like them, she didn’t have the most spectacular Christian life but Lord knows she was trying. God, how she was!

So, go ahead and judge me Tayo. Look at me with those glassy eyes of yours and pretend to not feel anything, even pity. I don’t care!

The painful thing was that she did care. She cared what these people thought of her because she was actually making an effort to be a better person.
Stop making any efforts. Let me do that for you.
She knew that voice anywhere. It was coming from somewhere deep in her soul. It was different from all the other voices; calm, soothing and all-knowing. It was deep calling out to deep. This wasn’t her head talking or her mind rationalizing, this was better – a voice providing solutions.

Cast all your burdens on Me; no worries.

In the backseat of her friend’s Volkswagen, Ethel felt her heart begin to come apart. She wanted to do so many things at the same time. Scream, weep, go on her knees and even sing but she sat, still. Holding on to the cherished words of assurance.

When they got to the house, Amaka led her without a word to the kitchen after handing baby Sharon over to her husband.

“We can talk here but first let me say something,” she took her friend by the shoulders, “I’m sorry. I haven’t been fair to you. I got angry that you left without a word that day and I forgot how difficult it must be for you to spill all those things about your life to me. I should’ve understood. It’s what Jesus would’ve done. So, please forgive me and if you don’t want to talk tonight, that is okay; I can drive you home now.”

Ethel responded by opening her arms and hugging Amaka. She was too overcome to speak. No one had ever apologized to her for something like this. Not her mother, nor Charles, nor any of the runs-girls she’d moved with, in the University.

“Forgive me,” she whispered, “I am ready to talk now.”

And she did.

“I was pregnant for Charles but I…” she began.
“You know what? Start from the beginning. How you met Charles,” Amaka prompted.

 

To be continued next week…

 

by Mimi Adebayo

 

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