…contined from Unforgiven II
Charles Umoh had a touch of arrogance, perhaps the fact that he was wealthy added to it. Those two aphrodisiacs were enough to attract any woman to him.
Standing on her doorstep, Ethel couldn’t avoid looking at him; really looking at him. He was greying at the temples in a way that made him very attractive.
“Won’t you ask me in?” he spoke in a low drawl.
His voice jerked Ethel from her semi-trance. She turned to Maria.
“What is this, Maria? How do you know this man?”
“She doesn’t. She just led me here. Because I asked,” he replied. “Thank you, Maria. You may go now.”
Without hesitating, the petite woman turned on her heels.
“Still used to getting your way, Mister Umoh?” she folded her hands across her chest.
“Still defensive around me, Ethel?” he indicated her posture, “Listen, we can do this here and cause a scene or you can let me in and we’ll talk like old friends.”
Only, we aren’t old friends. She thought, we aren’t even friends.
She moved aside and let him in, against her better judgment.
“Nice place you’ve got here, only it’s a bit small. Don’t you think?” he was walking around, like he owned the place.
“What do you want, Charles?” she asked.
“I miss the old apartment. It had memories, you know.”
She stiffened. He was toying with her. The old apartment had been his; he’d only leased it to her for their dalliances. That much had been clear when the relationship ended.
“What are you doing here, Charles?” she wasn’t going to let him get to her.
Her blood was pounding. With rage and hatred for this man. And something else. Excitement – a teeny bit of the old excitement raced through her veins.
It was the Charles effect. It didn’t matter that he was twenty years older than her or that they hadn’t seen each other for three years; he still had that effect on her.
You’re not this person anymore, Ethel. You have Jesus now. You have no right to feel this way about this man.
“I missed you. I’ve missed you all these years, Thelia,”
She winced. That was the name he’d called her before. When they were…together. It was the name she’d told him on their first date.
“You must be crazy. You think you can waltz in here after three years without a word and tell me you what? Missed me? You really must think the world revolves around you, Charles.”
He took a step forward, closing the little space between them. She didn’t look at him, didn’t want to look into those eyes, because then she was afraid her body might betray her. His eyes had always mesmerized her. His gaze had a hypnotic effect on her.
Be strong Thelia. No. Don’t call me that. My name is Ethel. Be strong Ethel.
“I’ve never been the same without you, Thelia. I should never have left,” he continued.
“Yet you did. And that’s the best decision you ever made,” she turned away from him, getting her strength back. “You should leave now, Charles. I’m not that person anymore.”
“I found Jesus. I’m saved.”
He laughed; a deep rumbling sound.
“Get out, Charles. I don’t know why you came but it’s time you left. I have work tomorrow.”
“You can’t keep up this good girl act for long, Thelia,” he was coming toward her again, “Remember what you told me once? I am like a drug in your system that you can’t get rid of. What we had was special, Thelia; people don’t recover easily from that.”
She remembered saying those words, when she’d begun falling in love with him without realizing it. It shamed her to think of it now. God, give me strength here. She prayed silently.
“Look at me Thelia. Look at me and tell me you don’t long for me as I long for you? That you don’t feel anything for me,” he was standing very close to her now, and although she was backing him, she could feel the heat that rose in her body as he came close.
“How’s your wife, Charles? And your two daughters?” her words broke the tension and he moved away from her.
“Low blow, Ethel,” he growled.
“Get out before I call Pastor Tim and tell him he’s beloved brother is hitting on his ex-mistress.”
“Tell me how you ended up in church, Ethel. You of all people do not deserve forgiveness.”
Without thinking, her palm connected with his cheek in a movement that surprised even her.
“You! Do. Not. Deserve. Forgiveness,” she said, anger rising in her eyes, “now, get out!”
He looked at her, “this isn’t over. I always get what I want.”
With that he marched out of the house and Ethel crumpled into the chair behind her.
Doesn’t knowing Jesus kill all evil feelings?
How could she still be attracted to this man who’d left her broken when she needed him most?
Love isn’t part of the equation, her Mum usually said while she cleaned up to meet another ‘client’.
What about my daddy? Did you love him? Ten year old Ethel had asked then.
Why do you think I have you? Mum had snapped in response. Love is a mirage and men don’t deserve it. Even though Ethel hadn’t understood Mum’s words then; she knew that somehow, men were the enemy. So Mummy said.
You’re not that person anymore. You’ve let go of the hate and bitterness.
So why don’t I feel better? Why can’t I be immune to Charles?
Her eyes fell on her bible that lay on the table and she reached for it.
Cast all your cares on me.
As she opened the Bible and began to read, she felt that strange peace draping itself over her.
Be of good cheer; I have overcome.
An insane idea dropped into her head as she read and Ethel reached for her phone and dialed a number.
“Eth, what’s up?”
“I’m ready to talk.”
“No. I’ll see you tomorrow at the office. Kiss Sharon for me.”
As she hung up, she realized what she’d done. Was she indeed ready?
…to be continued next week. Happy Sunday!
By Mimi Adebayo